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Tell HN: Google seems to have changed ncr (no country redirect)
120 points by dragop on Dec 25, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 32 comments
A useful feature of google search is ncr, no country redirect, which prevents geolocation redirection to the localized home page. Useful if you travel a lot, only want results in English if you live in a non-English speaking country, and so on.

The url used to be

https://www.google.com/ncr

Unfortunately this seems to have stopped working recently (clear cookies and caches first for anyone using this to see). After not a little search effort as it's either an unannounced change (or a bug?), you now need:

http://www.google.com/?gfe_rd=cr&gws_rd=cr

Hope this helps anyone relying on ncr.




It used to be like this: Visit https://www.google.com/ncr once, and on further requests, https://www.google.com/ or https://www.google.com/?hl=en wouldn't redirect to google.de any more. Unfortunately, visiting https://www.google.com/?gfe_rd=cr&gws_rd=cr doesn't appear to have this effect. Still a good workaround, so thanks for sharing!

I wonder if this might have anything to do with that EU right to be forgotten thing. The EU would like Google to remove search results from google.com, which is obviously very undesirable for Google, so maybe they try to appease the EU by making google.com harder to access for Europeans? Maybe the Use Google.com link will be removed soon?


For me it works with just this:

http://www.google.com/?gws_rd=cr

In Firefox you can assign a keyword to a bookmark. So when you bookmark this and assign keyword "g" then you can visit google.com by simply typing "g". Very convinient.


I use Google Search rarely but https://www.google.com/ncr is still in my muscle memory. Nowadays I just ddg.gg and in the rare case I'm not satisfied with the results I add g! in the search bar. The g! seems to give me the same results as https://www.google.com/ncr. (I like to consider this a feature and not a bug.)

To give you some perspective: I live in Germany but prefer to read programming or scientific topics in English. My English is not so good but the amount and quality of English content counterbalances this by large. When using Google from Germany (google.de or google.com, doesn't matter what) looking for English search terms gives me subpar search results.

There is another reason for avoiding local Google search (google .com or google.de without ncr). From about October to mid December whenever I'm was not logged into Google I could only search when I OKed a popup to accept Google's terms. There was only an OK button so I could only search if I explicitly accepted their terms or logged in (I did neither). ncr avoided this problem. They stopped doing this but still nag with a big banner to accept their terms.

Just to be clear: I'm not complaining. I just think that most HN readers are not aware of this and some might prossible be interested to know how using Google another country feels like.

The only use case I have for Google search is localized search. For example: Yesterday I wanted to look up the ensemble of a local theater. There is nothing that can beat Google in this regard.


I'm pretty much in the same situation - problem is just adding /ncr to the URL is easy to remember, especially when not on your own computer, ?gfe_rd=cr&gws_rd=cr doesn't exactly stick in the mind! I'm also increasingly leaning towards using ddg, wasn't aware of the g! option, thanks for that.

I don't where google's web search team is based, but I imagine it's mainly in the US, where this isn't likely to be a problem. Of course, for the vast majority of google search users, localized is what they want.


There's also !gde, !gat etc if you do want German, Austrian etc. version of Google.


Note that I have found that if you log into a Google account to do all your searches for a given topic, you actually get better results, e.g. searching for ACL, getting results related IT vs. knees.


Of course. Google will profile you and have a search for "make" return results about the software rather than the verb. The only downside is that you have to let Google profile you which is a pretty large demand if you ask me. I would rather use a better keyword.


I only login in Google for searches when searching IT and comp sci type questions.


I've always used https://encrypted.google.com/, which works the same way (I think?) The URL is from before google even had https.


I use this domain with a special rule to disable javascript and cookies. Page loads insanely fast!


It's too bad Google ignores the browser's language preferences, this wouldn't be needed if they weren't so broken wrt Accept-Language.


country ≠ language

For example, you can get google.ca in French or English by changing your browser Accept-Language.


Thank you so much! I was trying to use google.com/ncr the other day and it wasn't working. No wonder. Just saved this one in my bookmarks.


What really gets on my nerves is that I can't configure it to use google.com when I search from the omnibox, I don't even know from where is it getting my current country, I guess it's IP geolocation.


I haven't looked at this explicitly, but I would expect that if you sign in to chrome then it will follow your account preferences for which locality to use. Does that not work?


I prefer to have everything tech-related written in English, but with Google, I constantly get some of their services translated into my local language. I have to keep translating their services back to English.


Geolocation is another reason ncr is useful, when using VPNs.



they optimize for locals, while killing usability for foreigners and travellers. try using google in spain - even the results are worthless if you're not a spaniard. local search results get prominence, which is hilarious when searching tech terms.


Seems like they fixed this. It's working for me


Also, the prize for the stupidest behavior was won by Google: adding your country's suffix to a blogspot blog.


This is how Google managed to avoid having the entire domain made illegal in some countries, most importantly Germany, due to wantonly hosting illegal content: shard into per-country domains, ban the per-country illegal content on their domain, and shrug regarding the other domains.

The particular issue was that Germany, for historical reasons, has restrictions about what one can say about Naziism which are not compatible with American notions of free speech.


Why redirect to the domain? Why not just block by geoip?


GeoIPs aren't 100% reliable - there's a small but non-negligible chance that geolocating your IP will place you in a different country than you're actually in. When faced with the choice between accidentally censoring legitimate content that you have a right to see vs. accidentally letting you see content that is banned in your country, Google would much rather let you accidentally see the banned stuff.


But what's the benefit of adding another detection layer over the existing one? If the GeoIP is wrong, it'll still redirect me to the blocked domain. If I can change the domain and access it anyway, what's the purpose of blocking?

It doesn't make sense to me that they implemented GeoIP blocking by redirection, as it only has added downsides.


It's an escape hatch. If they block outright, then if they block outright and are wrong, a legitimate user cannot see content that they have a right to. If they use a redirect, then a user - legitimate or illegitimate - can bypass that block, but they have to explicitly take action to. Consequences are on them, then.

Remember that Google's mission is to "organize the world's information and make it uniformly accessible and useful". Their purpose is not to block the content at all - if it were up to only Google, they wouldn't have either a block or a redirection, you'd just be able to access the content. The country redirects are the result of a negotiation with the country, where Google says "Okay, if we did this, would it be acceptable" and the government says "No, too permissive" and then Google says "Okay, what if we did this?" and then finally the government says "Alright."


That makes sense. However, how do you get past the block? Changing the TLD to com redirects me to gr every time.


I think that's what the ncr (No Country Redirect) parameter that the article talks about does - it tells Google to not redirect to the appropriate TLD.


That was for google.com, but it turns out that it works for blogger as well! Interesting, thank you.



This annoys the hell out of me as it also never seems to correctly remember I clicked "got it" to the "we use cookies" message that sticks to the top of the page.


Agreed.




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