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Google, Blogger in German?

by @ 11:30 pm
Filed under: google,internet,web

Here's a head-scratcher for tonight. When I got home one of my kids was trying show me something on blogger.com and suddenly everything was in Deutsch, as in German. At first I though that it was a mix-up. Some programmer at Google (which owns Blogger) had screwed up and suddenly everything had gone Teutonic. Now we have a German-speaking household, so then I assumed that the kids had changed some setting to German language and Google was happily obliging.


Google, Blogger in German


Hoping to unravel the mystery, I logged in to my own account on the XP machine and headed to google.com. no luck, it kept switching over to google.de. What was happening here? I checked the regional settings on the XP machine and everything was as expected, en-US. Then I headed to the whoami page to see if my IE browser was specifying a wrong "Accept-Language" header (i.e. de-DE) prompting Google to redirect to its German site based on the CultureInfo. Nope, that wasn't the problem either. Then I launched Firefox and surfed onto google.com. Same behavior, I landed on Google's German site again.

Somehow Google was convinced that I was German and it was trying to help me, more like coerce me, to their German site. Is it possible that they had an algorithm tracking web sites visited from my house and deciding that the "most appropriate" site for us was their German version? I can't say for sure, but apparently Google had decided that we should use their German site.

A quick fix was to click on the English link on Google's homepage. That deposited a cookie in the browser indicating that I was interested in the standard google.com site and it fixed the immediate problem, but not entirely. Blogger was (and still is) coming up in German and deleting cookies, as I often do, would bring things back to the annoying redirect. Was Google erroneously identifying my IP address as one from Germany?

Feeling frustrated, I searched the newsgroups for an answer and I found this thread that confirmed my suspicion. One of the posters who was experiencing the same problem had written to Google and had received this response:

Google has recently started using IP-address detection to help our users find our foreign destination sites. Unfortunately, our IP-address detection is not perfect and you are being inappropriately redirected. We are working on the problem. In the interim, you can regain your old Google.com experience by simply clicking on the 'Google.com [English]' link in the footer of the page. By clicking on this, Google will note that you have opted out of the foreign domain site and you will no longer experience redirects.

So it was an IP address mis-identification after all. This is the most ridiculous scheme I have heard of, and to have it come out of Google, it is almost inconceivable. No doubt the folks at Google are padding themselves on their backs for their ingenuity. Meanwhile they apparently have disregarded the basic rules of IP addresses on the Internet and the proper way of serving visitors.

  • First off, please don't help me along when I haven't asked for it. That is so Microsoft to try to be helpful in all the wrong places. If I want the German site, I'll ask for it myself.
  • Second, the correct way of determining a user's preferred CultureInfo is checking the browser header. The browser will tell you what language the user is likely interested in.
  • Third, the IP address is an unreliable way of determining the user's preferred language. The user could be an American connecting his laptop from his hotel room in Germany. Or a Parisian employee of an American company using a corporate proxy server in the U.S.
  • Fourth, if you must persist in this IP detection insanity, at least make sure your databases are not flawed. I'm connected over an AT&T DSL circuit in Connecticut, yet Google apparently believes I'm in Germany or Lichtenstein.
  • And finally don't give the visitor some half-baked solution of clicking on a link, when it doesn't help with your other sites and reverts to the original problem when cookies are deleted. Not to mention that it wouldn't even work if the user has opted to block cookies.
  • For a company that prides itself in its technical prowess and its service, Google sure astounded me with this one. Or, is this just a ploy to throw some traffic to their foreign sites?

    ,,,,,,

    1 Comment »

    1. Hey man, I am having the same issue...but my google and MSN.com both came up like i was in Germany. When I went to MSN Maps it defaults to Europe instead of the U.S. and I have no idea how to fix it any ideas?

      Comment by duschwaa — November 2, 2008 @ 1:06 am

     

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