Google is making the (accurate) calculation that over 99% of people coming from a Japanese IP address whose computer says "Accept-Language: en-gb;q=0.9, en;q=0.7" are actually Japanese speakers of Japanese (true preference: "Accept-Language: ja-jp;q=1.0; en;q=0.000001") whose configurations have been borked at the manufacturer or the IT department level, and who will be terribly served by content written in English. It's an act of charity that they even ask about English prior to defaulting you into Japanese. (They haven't always done that -- every year or two it seems to switch for me.)
This is a particularly acute issue since most users of Google don't actually have accounts on it, their best attempts to fix that to the contrary. As a result, in key ways such as language, the service needs to "just work" for the majority of their users. Also, if I was to have a totally clinical view of the situation, the expected value of 1 English speaker in terms of ad clicks is ridiculously below the expected value of 1 Japanese speaker in terms of ad clicks, given that both are in Japan (+), and you're asking to sacrifice 99 Japanese speakers to save the 1 English speaker. Once you accept that there will be a loser in this decision either way, figuring out who the loser should be is not that hard. Sorry: I'd prefer English, too.
And by the way, want to check out a post on Blogspot? Off to blogspot.jp you go. This doesn’t change the page itself, only the URL. So what does redirecting me accomplish, except make me feel that I’m not in control of what sites I can access?
This is a hack around censorship laws in a few places (most relevantly to the instant case, Germany, I believe). Google has a blogspot.jp which is a copy of .com which is a copy of .de which is a copy of... except that they enforce country-specific censorship laws. This was deemed an acceptable tradeoff versus getting all of blogspot blacklisted in e.g. Germany.
n.b. No special inside knowledge here.
(+) If this is not intuitively obvious to you talk to me about AdWords geotargetting and default settings sometime.
I have no problems if their default is the local language - that's pretty much a no-brainer - but when I've told them in no uncertain terms what my own preferences are, they ought to respect that.
One small improvement would be to write the name of the language in the original and not in whatever country's version. (e.g. English instead of Angol, etc).
Google is making the (completely wrong) assumption that those people cannot type google.co.jp instead of google.com and make their own choices.
But at least in Japan they're probably right about the language. Google pulls the same crap in multilingual countries, and gets it wrong a lot of the time. This isn't Google being smart, this is Google being lazy and insensitive.
You're making the completely unsupported assumption that the average internet user understands domain names. Like patio11 suggested, if a user from a Japanese IP is accessing google.com, it's likely that this address was pre-configured in some way: the search bar was set up like that, or the company sysadmin set up the home page like that. But even if the user manually typed "google.com", if they're in Japan it's still (way) more likely that they wanted a Japanese version rather than the English one.
Also, they either use the English version of the OS and browser, or the one in their language, and both come with the default correct preferred language settings.
The same goes for company systems. You don't give someone who can't handle English an English language system, and the idea of setting up a system in language X but pre-configuring that in some what that English becomes the preferred browser language is a really odd edge case.
Even if such scenarios are more common, it still doesn't excuse telling people that make explicit choices to go fuck themselves, especially in multi-lingual countries where such explicit choices are common.
Japan may be relatively homogenous, but most countries in Europe are either formally multilingual or have large immigrant populations. Many thousands of people are regularly being confronted with misplaced assumptions about their preferred language.
You can't assume language from geo-IP databases, it is the most unreliable and inappropriate method imaginable, and you are 100% sure to regularly piss people off.
People don't know the difference between the google search bar and the address bar.
Also, if in Japan, I would be surprised to find google.com not to be in Japanese, and I would expect to have to perhaps make some kind of preparations for the fact that the majority of the world does not speak my language and that my electronic devices and services are not universal metatrons run by omnipresent deitys either.
If you are a local you are probably very used to your country domain, it is probably on par with .com.
Now the Accept-Language is quite subtle and guess how that is set up in an internet café? Can you even change it? Will the next customer be happy about that? I'd be mighty impressed if more than 1% of the people that surfs the web has a clue about Accept-Language.
Also, if one asks for a local country domain that really should be the localized version, sometimes I actually want to use google for a language different other than my own.
If I for instance wanted to search in English on something that has a similar wording as Swedish I'd like to go to google.com in order to quickly get rid of the Swedish-bias (since that doesn't work I sometimes use google.co.uk instead).
Many people are however, and mass media, which includes Google, however they may try to deny it, lives by the numbers, which means adapting to the lowest common denominator. Just think, as the Internet spreads, Google will evolve (devolve) closer and closer to broadcast TV!
From the article:
>The problem is compounded by the fact that most of the time, you have no way of doing anything about it. And when you can do something, it’s often buried in layers of menus, which –don’t forget– are all in Japanese, Bhutanese, or Martian…
I think you're missing a key point in the article.
1. Are in the tiny minority of people in Japan who don't speak Japanese
2. Chose to switch to Japanese when Google asked them if they'd prefer Google in Japanese or English
Google guessing that she might have been Japanese was not the major problem here. The ultimate problem was her incorrectly stating her language preference. It's hard to see what reasonable measures Google could have taken to inconvenience fewer people here.
In all my travels I had to deal with language issues from Google. But it goes beyond that, as the vast majority of i18n'ed sites favor IP location over Accept-Language. I find this trend saddening.
what event/law are you referring to? why blogspot should be censored in germany?
It only displays the same content if that content is compliant for the local region.
Thus, in the Nazi example, all off blogspot get the posts except blogspot.de, who filter it out somehow.
That's something that Youtube doesn't do with adverts very well - I'm in the UK, I've not left the UK, my IP geolocates to the UK, but I often get US ads in Youtube. Advertising law is different and often the ads are not compliant for the UK.
That to me seems wrong. No one learns a language in 7 hours.
Wow, I had no idea. I thought it was some obnoxius kind of load-balancing or something like that :)
If I was a completely anonymous user coming in from a location it would be an understandable. But I'm not anonymous, I am logged in to the same account I've been using for a decade that in almost every other use case was US-ian English. So there really isn't any excuse. Absent any active attempt to change settings on my part, that I prefer US-ian centric settings is an easy inference to make even when I travel.
I want to believe there is a rationale for doing things this way but I can't think of one. All it does is make the Internet barely usable when I travel to many countries.
But hey, Google's always been this way. Before you could even log in they used to have a "Settings" pane where you cuold set your language to be saved in a cookie. It would get lost all the time; you'd always have to reset it.
But American websites in general are awful at this. They completely ignore local diversity and sensitivities and simply assume "one country, one language", so they will for instance happily present Flemish users with French interfaces.
It's fucking offensive. If I type google.com instead of google.nl or google.de or google.co.jp and my browser preferred language is English, I have made it pretty damn clear what I want.
Google has been OK for me (except when it starts to display in German out of the blue), but other sites like myspace are pathetic. In a country where the majority speaks Dutch, they default to French and make it very confusing to change the language.
Choosing google.com instead of google.nl however is a clear choice. Setting the preferred language of my browser is an even more explicit choice.
How can honoring explicit choices be more offensive than assuming the visitor is an idiot who can't think for themselves?
No it isn't, .com is the global domain, not the english one.
Browsers are often configured improperly and it's not always practical to rely on them but it definitely isn't offensive to follow the explicit preferences sent by the browser.
However, once the user has logged into your site as is the common case with google properties, there is no excuse for serving the page in the wrong language. For months google calendar on my iPhone here in Tokyo would be in Japanese. All of the other tabs on the mobile google site would be English but just google calendar would be Japanese locale. As far as I could tell there was no way to fix it. Then one day it was fixed. I still see this mistake all over the place with other sites.
I actually blame the rise of geo-ip and location databases for enabling the ability to geo-locate users. Something about giving developers the rope to hang themselves with…
It used to be that I could use www.google.de for German searches, and www.google.com/ncr for English searches, but that does not (reliably) work anymore. I now grudgingly type www.google.com/?hl=en in the address bar more often than not.
There you can change the language(s) of your search result. I think you can mark up to 10 languages.
I go to google.com, start typing and Google starts showing me some instant results and hitting Enter gives me only 10 results per page. (The same settings are respected for non-private gmail in Chrome, though.)
See also : http://www.labnol.org/internet/search/how-to-see-google-resu...
Google isn't so bad as long as you login; in fact the first hint I'm not logged in usually comes from a bunch of Chinese search results. Really, this isn't as big a deal as region coding, Netflix, Hulu, and VPNs that are constantly being attacked by your host government.
However, http://www.google.com/?hl=en works.
YouTube is even worse. It has all sorts of data on what I view and like... Yet if I travel it acts as though my preferences have drastically changed. This just seems extremely lame. It is the oposite of "organizing the world's information" sensibly. The only way to see non-hyper local completely unwanted videos is a vpn.
The biggest complaint I have is how windows 3.1 like the whole experience is. Let me make my settings and have those stick. Don't hide preferences in some crazy gui (windows style) and make it some hard to retain your preferences. If they want the default behavior to be that search results have little to do with the person and most to do with the geo location Google thinks you are at fine. Just make it obvious what you are doing (showing me massively manipulated results based on location - and tell me what location you think that is). And let me have a simple way to set my preferences to search based on USA location (or if there is some legal reason this can't be done just tell me so I don't wonder why the results are so crazy).
I live in Japan, my systems are configured in English, but when I'm at the office my internet is routed through a proxy which is somehow localized to India (I have no idea where is its actual location).
- I get Google in English most of the time (though sometimes it will pop back to Japanese)
- Google account settings on the other hand will most of the time show in Japanese (I'm OK though, I know the language)
- Search results include Japanese language websites at home
- I get Japanese ads at home and Indian ads at work, especially funny on Youtube.
- Google Maps is all over the place though, sometimes showing me Japan, India but also defaulting to US of A...
Note: you rant about two settings for language, but that makes sense. I want to see the Google interface in English because this is my preferences for interfaces, but I want local search results including Japanese language websites because that is what's useful to me most of the time.
I might be mistaken on this, but I don't think there is a way to set the search results language independently of the UI language.
Interestingly, I did a search through Chrome to get to the Google search results page, I was not logged in and everything was in English. I proceed to login and get reverted to Japanese (not my default). As I said before, my settings keep getting changed automagically all the time...
This is extremely annoying (especially when there's no way to choose the language manually) and moreso considering there's a way to know the language of the system.
A lot of programs require command-line switches on every invocation to change the language if it's not the same as your OS locale.
Even my OS and browser are in English and i made search with "English words" ( eg. "operating system" instead of "Betriebssystem" ), search results are in German because i'm in Germany.
At some level it's acceptable but things get weird when i use my girlfriends notebook ( english OS, chinese browser ) : Now google decides to obey "Accept-Language" and even i sign in with my google account, google switch language to Chinese. Since google tries and fails to being "smart" , i have to switch constantly between English, German and Chinese.
I also hate the fact that I have to do something as cumbersome as putting the browser in private mode whenever I'm using someone else's computer to make a search on the english side of google since, like for japan, google.com redirects to google.fr instead of letting me use the US database so I have to go in the preferences and do so in private mode so as to not mess with the cookies as they wouldn't be pleased if their google permanently turned English even on google.fr. God damn it.
Hey GOOGLE, domain names are not just for show, FFS. If I want the French edition, I'll go to google.fr. If I want it in English, I'll go to google.com. Don't mess with something that worked rather well since the beginning of the Internet.
I hate programmers who try to write "smart" software. Software that makes attempts at thinking in your stead. Fuck off ! I know what I want, you don't need to make annoying guess works.
You should be able to configure your search engine pref (at least in Firefox and Chrome) to reflect this.
Respect the language settings of my browser, or even my machine as a reasonable default and the world is a better place!
for example, I'd be surprised if they defaulted to anything other than English for a public website. But not .com
Furthermore, English is the single language widely use by travelers, heard in movies and even in local pop songs all over the world. English is the one language in which nearly anyone on the internet can recognize the name of their own language. Anyone in Russia could recognize that "Russian" refers to their own language, but how many Spaniards would realize that "スペイン語" was what they had to click on a Japanese site to find their own language?
Anything other than English would be a terrible default for a .com
But it's not as easy as a bunch of flags and ISO 3166 codes.
What happens for countries where there is no official language and two languages commonly spoken? (US: English and Spanish; Spain: Spanish and Catalon etc etc.)
Google's search is pretty bad too, it really pushes me to the Japanese page even though I want English since the results differ. They hide the English page link way at the bottom in small font text and don't make clear that it's the English version.
ge : will search google.com with primary language = en
g : will search google.co.jp with primary language = jp
I get wildly different result sets every time. And usually, one is spot on with what i'm looking for and the other is useless.
Most of Google is in English. https://accounts.google.com/b/0/SmsAuthConfig is set to German with no possibility to change it (that I can see). The Android market shows me German movies, German books and German games.
I honestly believe the only way to have a decent, single-language experience is to live in a purely English speaking country, never move away, never use a device that was used in a non-English-speaking-country and of course speak English.
Seems to be really hard to save somewhere what someone wants -.-
I struggled with this at length both for my computers and those of my children until I found the obscure google switch:
That tells google not to attempt to redirect to local language. You will have to set this in your search preferences as the google search URL.
Hope this helps,
I never thought about it in terms of personalization, I figured that being in Korea I should be getting Korean pages served to me, and I would have to make the effort to get it back to English.
I have no figure but I'd guess multilingual is actually the norm in many countries.
And you think you are being fair!!!
Google products are in fact written by humans, and are therefore imperfect. It will have bugs. So let's all rein in the misplaced outrage and reflect on all the amazing stuff Google provides to us, free of charge.
Then, please go watch this Louis CK clip, and then re-evaluate whether this is worth a blog post.
- Buy a machine in the contry you want and proxy through it.
I'm customizing my Chrome's ominibox to use both google.com and google.co.jp. And I'm also configuring amazon, wikipedia, googlemap and so on the same way.
The cynic in me wants to tell you that you'll only learn Japanese better if you immerse yourself ;)
(Hint: most people in Japan speak Japanese. There are 126,000,000 Japanese in Japan, compared to 1,000,000 foreigners. Most of the foreigners are Korean and Chinese and probably understand Japanese just fine. Hell, so do most Americans, probably. My point is: if you're in Japan, it's quite reasonable for a website to default to Japanese.)
there you go.
But ever since my wife and I moved to Kyoto, the Internet sure seems to think we are.
The internet does not think. Or if it does, it has weird proto-dreams of kittens and porn. But it does not think of you, or your wife.
Google is supposedly this big, Skynet-like company that lives to collect data on us.
Stop believing the shiny box. It lies.
Yet it’s not very smart about language.
As soon as we stepped foot in the land of the rising sun, it asked my wife if she wanted to display Google in Japanese, and she clicked “yes” by mistake.
And unfortunately, it launched the nukes.
Not only did Google start showing her its user interface in Japanese, but the real problem was that all her search results were from Japanese sites, too!
But it didn't launch the nukes after all, but instead did exactly as instructed.
And going back seemed impossible.
Here in our story, our protagonist discovers entropy.
Going through Google.com instead of Google.co.jp did nothing. Changing her langage settings was just as useless.
My god. Those evil fiends. Is just like that bit in the bible where they build a tower to heaven and stuff.
Turns out Google Search uses a different language preference page.
Wooo! We have finality. There are two preference panes. Which are really hard to find if you change language to something you cant read by pressing the wrong buttons.
And furthermore, google are just a big company and have no magic wizards that do magic and stuff. They do not know what you are thinking unless you are within a couple of meters at best. So do not expect things to know what you meant to do but didn't for at least the next 2 years or so.