Google famously pulled its services out of the Chinese market in 2010 rather than comply with the government's censorship requirements, but it's dipping a toe back in today. Google has re-launched Google Maps for China, but not via the same app we have in the rest of the world. Most people will access it via a web page, but iPhones get an app. Hey, it's a start.

A new China-specific version of Maps is accessible via the web for all devices. There is also an app for Apple devices distributed via the App Store. There is no Play Store in China, but Google could technically make the app available for download directly. That's what it did with the Google Translate app in March 2017.

After an eight-year absence, Google doesn't have the necessary mapping data to do this all on its own. If you look at China in Maps, you'll notice a lot of streets are missing and others no longer match the recent satellite data. The Chinese government also imposes strict rules on the collection and use of map data. Users report the data in the new Google Maps appears to come from Alibaba-owned AutoNavi, which has long worked within the government's restrictions. In fact, if you try to use Google's navigation features, it directs you to the AutoNavi app.

The Chinese government is reportedly interested in advancing machine learning technologies that could power self-driving vehicles. That's something Google has been working toward for years, which could explain Google's return to China with Maps. The government and Google are still unlikely to agree on requirements for services like search and YouTube, so don't expect a full Google experience in China for the time being.

Nothing to see here, move along.

Google has clarified the situation, and apparently, Nikkei was misinformed. Google Maps has been available on the web in China for several years, and there's no iOS app. There are no changes to Google's services in China.