Google's problems in China just got worse.
As part of a broad campaign to tighten internal security, the Chinese government has draped a darker shroud over Internet communications in recent weeks, a situation that has made it more difficult for Google and its customers to do business.
Chinese exporters have struggled to place Google ads that appeal to overseas buyers. Biotechnology researchers in Beijing had trouble recalibrating a costly microscope this summer because they could not locate the online instructions to do so. And international companies have had difficulty exchanging Gmail messages among far-flung offices and setting up meetings on applications like Google Calendar.
"It's a frustrating and annoying drain on productivity," said Jeffrey Phillips, an American energy executive who has lived in China for 14 years. "You've got people spending their time figuring out how to send a file instead of getting their work done."
The pain is widespread. Two popular messaging services owned by South Korean companies, Line and Kakao Talk, were abruptly blocked this summer, as were other applications like Didi, Talk Box and Vower. American giants like Twitter and Facebook have long been censored by China's Great Firewall, a system of filters the government has spent lavishly on to control Internet traffic in and out of the country.
Read MoreChina escalating attack on Google
Even as Google and other big technology companies have lobbied heavily for an easing of the restrictions, Beijing's broader scrutiny of multinationals has intensified.In late July, anti-monopoly investigators raided Microsoft offices in four Chinese cities to interrogate managers and copy large amounts of data from hard drives. Qualcomm, a big maker of computer chips and a holder of wireless technology patents, faces a separate anti-monopoly investigation.
The increasingly pervasive blocking of the web, together with other problems like severe air pollution in China's urban centers, has led some businesses to transfer employees to regional hubs with more open and speedier Internets, like Singapore. And more companies are considering similar moves.
"Companies overlooked Internet problems when the economy was booming," said Shaun Rein, managing director of the China Market Research Group, a Shanghai consulting firm. "But now a lot of companies are asking whether they really need to be in China."
The chief technology officer of a start-up in China said it had been especially difficult to use Google Drive this summer, making it a challenge for employees to share files and documents.
"We were hooked on collaborative editing," said the chief technology officer, who insisted on anonymity for fear of reprisal from the Chinese authorities. "You can edit a Word document or spreadsheet together and everything is kept in sync— that way our management could track the status of the products we were working on."
As Alibaba's initial public offering of stock in New York on Thursday demonstrated, China has produced many highly successful web businesses. But many executives and researchers say that a number of homegrown Internet services are poor substitutes for the multinationals' offerings.
Jin Hetian, an archaeologist in Beijing, said it was difficult to do research using Baidu, a local search engine that has limitations for searches in English and other non-Chinese languages and that provides fewer specialized functions. "I know some foreign scientists are studying the rings of ancient trees to learn about the climate, for example, but I can't find their work using Baidu," Ms. Jin said. "When in China, I'm almost never able to access Google Scholar, so I'm left badly informed of the latest findings."
Kaiser Kuo, a spokesman for Baidu, said the company focused on indexing websites written in Chinese, since most of its customers are Chinese speakers.
Access to some overseas academic sites has also been blocked. A Peking University professor was recently unable to file a letter of recommendation for a student applying to study at an American university because China had blocked the school's website, said a physics researcher at Peking University who insisted on anonymity for fear of retaliation by the Chinese authorities.
Google's troubles in China have been building up for years.