Microsoft’s Bing is down in China, according to users who took to social media beginning Wednesday afternoon to complain and express concerns.
The Seattle-based behemoth has confirmed that its search engine is currently inaccessible in China and is “engaged to determine next steps,” a company spokesperson said in a statement to TechCrunch Thursday morning.
The situation appears to be a DNS (domain name system) corruption, one method for China to block websites through its intricate censor system called the Great Firewall. When a user enters a domain name associated with a banned IP address, the Firewall will corrupt the connection to stop the page from loading.
Several users told TechCrunch they are still able to access Bing by directly visiting its IP address as of Thursday morning.
UPDATE: it's confirmed to be DNS corruption, the common method of banning websites in China pic.twitter.com/GIlYsCVa1L
— Patrick Wu (@patrick330602) January 23, 2019
Bing remained one of the few non-Chinese internet firms that still have their core products up and running in a country where Google and Facebook have long been unavailable. Another rare case is LinkedIn, which runs a filtered version of its social network for professionals and caught flack for bending to local censorship.
Bing also censors its search service for Chinese users, so it would be odd if its inaccessibility turned out to be a case of government clampdown. That said, China appears to be further tightening control over the cyberspace. Case in point, LinkedIn recently started to run strict identity checks on its China-based users.
Baidu remains the biggest search engine in China with smaller rival Sogou coming in second. Bing, which some users find is a more pleasant alternative to local options that are usually flooded with ads, is active on 320,000 unique devices monthly, according to third-party research firm iResearch. That’s dwarfed by Baidu’s 466 million and Sogou’s 43 million.