Google's localizations

Google has again changed its way of serving its foreign visitors.

A long time ago, if I wanted to get to the French version of Google, I just had to go to google.fr.

Then Google started to fool around, forcing me to google.fr even when I specifically asked for google.com. I suspect it did that by guessing my location based on my IP address, because it was not honoring my browser language preference which was set at U.S. English. For a short period of time it was just impossible to get to google.com, until they added a link to google.com on the footer of all their localized versions for people who really wanted to go there. Later on, probably based on some cookie cuisine, google stopped to redirect me to the French version when I wanted the American one. That was good enough for me.

But it is not good enough for Google, so they have invented some other way to frame the foreigners. Going to Google.com right now from my Paris den brings me to this:

At first I didn't notice the change, because this page looks like expected to me, i.e. the American English version. Then I caught up the title: "Google Français"! My instinct fear was that, although the interface is showing up in English (as expected), the search results would be limited to the French or francophone sites. To find this out I searched for "apple" and, seing some French coming up first (screenshot), thought this was the case. It is not, Google is simply sending me the French ads along with the results I would otherwise be getting from the American version of Google. Clever. Through the various preferences settings Google provides, I can change the language for both the interface and the scope of my searches, but I will always get ads coming from the country where I am physically located.

2 Comments

Many browsers have an option for setting a preferred language. When this is set, your browser will send a header containing your preferred language code (e.g., "en," "en-us," "fr"). Most sites ignore this header, but I believe that Google looks for it, and will dispatch you to a localized version of its site if you are using a supported language. You may want to check this.

Hello, just stumbled by... nice conspiracy theory of yours, it could be good to make a short story out of it where all the Web, starting from the most "innocent" web browser (Google) becomes sinister and menacing.
:)

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