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.
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.
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?