Google and Blogger, please stop localizing me!

On: April 16, 2007
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About Anne Helmond
Anne Helmond is Assistant Professor of New Media and Digital Culture and Program Director of the MA New Media and Digital Culture at the University of Amsterdam. She is a member of the Digital Methods Initiative research collective where she focuses her research on the infrastructure of social media platforms and apps. Her research interests include digital methods, software studies, platform studies, app studies, infrastructure studies and web history.

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While writing a piece about the Ubiscribe event on my own blog I went to Blogger’s website. Blogger automatically localizes me based on my IP-address and welcomes me in my own language. Google does the same thing when I go to Google.com it automatically redirects me to Google.nl. Even though I can see the advantages of this I strongly dislike this automatic localizing because I go to the Google.com domain for a reason! Searching something on the Google.com or Google.nl domain gives you different search results and when I look for something that is not Dutch I rather use the Google.com domain.

There are two ways to reach the google.com domain instead of the google.nl domain:

  1. After automatic redirection to Google.nl follow the “Google.com in English link” (which is actually pretty funny because apparently you are on Google.com in Dutch instead of Google.nl.
  2. Run your search on Google.nl and then change http://www.google.nl/search?hl=nl&q=ubiscribe&meta= to http://www.google.nl/search?hl=en&q=ubiscribe&meta= (change nl for en or any other language.) This will give you the same search results as when you are on the Google.com domain.

Here are some screenshots of the different search results Google.com, Google.nl in English and Google.nl produce (the first two produce the same results).

Google.comGoogle.nl in EnglishGoogle.nl

Blogger, that has been bought by Google, also localizes me based on my IP-address but does not automatically redirect me from Blogger.com to Blogger.nl for example. I stay on the Blogger.com domain but I am welcomed in Dutch. I can see the advantage of this but I wonder if I can also “return” to the “original” English version. Blogger offers me a Taal/Language link that allows me to toggle the language of the page. More screenshots of this localizing process:

BloggerBloggerBlogger

I can see the advantages of localizing (I want Google to localize me when I visit Google Maps for example. An interesting note is that maps.google.com does not automatically redirect to maps.google.nl.) but sometimes I just want to shout “Please stop localizing me!”

What are your thoughts on this automatic localizing and the localized web?

16 Responses to “Google and Blogger, please stop localizing me!”
  • April 16, 2007 at 2:03 pm

    I’ve had similar frustrating experiences with google search, however, I don’t think changing the language setting solves the problem. Google localizes you because of targetted ads, therefore searching on the google.com domain will provide you with results in english, but would be different from the results presented in the USA, Australia, or the UK.

  • April 16, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    Same thing goes for Google Alerts (or Google Meldingen). I also use the nl<>en change in the address bar often, mostly just to check if I’m not missing something. In that case you still are localized by the way, simply because the ads are still in Dutch. Frustrating stuff, the global village? Yeah right!

  • April 16, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    I have an undying hatred for most localized stuff on computers. I lie during my windows installation (telling the software im from the US or the UK) just to avoid getting annoying keyboard settings or software in my native language.

    I know “The Global” is evil and “The local” is on the rise, but it sows chaos as I have trouble guiding other users through windows settings and menus when their OS is in German or Swedish or Dutch or whatever.

    On a related note, i feel that the dogged insistence of people to surround themselves with their native language has a negative effect on overall lingual proficiency. I think we can all agree that being bilingual trumps restricting yourself to only one language, and when countries like France or Germany persevere in their schemes to homogenize the language scape by either blocking foreign products or dubbing everything to death, the members of these societies lose out in the end. Especially in the information age: the more languages you master the more access you have to vital information all over the world. So to make efforts to dodge the most prevalent language of all – English – is to shoot yourself in the foot.

    One of the defining moments in the history of mankind is the advent of language. While I understand the motive of puritans to maintain or preserve their native language the way they go about it ultimately makes for a foolish policy. To artificially curb one’s ‘language scape’ is a strategy doomed to failure; isolationist policies only bring you so far.

    English has become kind of a ruling protocol; master it and you will be able to communicate with the vast majority of online dwellers and obtain information from the vast majority of online resources. Restrict yourself to one language only and your internet becomes less inter. Efforts like Google’s and those of software providers encourage people to hide in their respective language cocoons, which ultimately has a negative effect on the individual.

    (Yay for black and white views :P)

  • April 16, 2007 at 8:17 pm

    Although I totally agree with you that English has become the ruling protocol, I do have to stand up for the average user, the accessabilty, the digitally handicapped. For example if you want someone from 50+ to actually learn to start using the internet, it has to be localized and in the local language.

    But where are the days when if you wanted a Dutch search engine (remember http://www.ilse.nl anyone? please?) then you would go to a different website. That is how things should be. I already have another idea for a MoM t-shirts (or a corny protest line for that matter).

    CHOICE
    NOT
    FORCE!

    I’m gonna go hop on my white bike again and drive through Amsterdam.

  • April 16, 2007 at 8:51 pm

    The main reason I use English software instead of Dutch language software is that when I run into trouble I am far better off searching for help online in English than Dutch. It is often pretty dreadful to properly translate options so it will match search strings. But as an owner of a legal Dutch Windows copy I often notice software conflicts.

    Another thing I like and dislike are the inline spelling checkers. They are teasing me, when I use Dutch software they have English as a standard checker or vice versa. Finding out how to change to another language sometimes takes a long time and is not a matter of a single click.

    I’m not sure about English as the ruling protocol. Other languages are rising and we aren’t even aware of Japanese software for example. I think the status of English based software will change in the near future.

  • April 16, 2007 at 10:25 pm

    As their growing number forced them to live in localities more and more distant from their patriarchal homes, “they said: Come, let us make a city and a tower, the top whereof may reach to heaven; and let us make our name famous before we be scattered abroad into all lands.” The work was soon fairly under way; “and they had brick instead of stones, and slime instead of mortar.” But God confounded their tongue, so that they did not understand one another’s speech, and thus scattered them from that place into all lands, and they ceased to build the city.

  • April 17, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    quoting the Bible gives me the itchies :(

  • April 17, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    babel

  • April 18, 2007 at 12:38 am

    McLuhan quotes the bible in Understanding Media! Just for peps enjoyment ;) Psalm 115:

    4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.
    5 They have mouths but do not speak, eyes but do not see.
    6 They have ears but do not hear, noses but do not smell.
    7 They have hands but do not feel, feet but do not walk, and no sound rises from their throats.
    8 Their makers shall be like them, all who trust in them.

  • April 18, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    Isnt Babel a Biblical story then, Romonster?

  • April 18, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    Yes duh!

    but ‘babel’ is more precise…. let me explain

    there are two different interpetation of babel…. babel or bible…

    Babel:
    People take on the status of God
    Everything seems realizable and possible
    Their plan: World unity
    People make themselves bigger than they truly are
    In this reading babel means: tower of gods, gates of heaven

    Bible perspective:
    God comes down to Earth
    God intervenes with the plans of man
    Gods plan: World population
    God creates distinct cultures
    Babel from this perspective means: to confuse, to brabble

  • April 20, 2007 at 10:57 am

    Check out this url for a pic of the famous painting “The Tower of Babel” by Pieter Breughel:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tower_of_Babel_%28Brueghel%29

    Notice how Breughel left out a piece of the wall to enable the viewer to take a look inside? Nice combination of art and information visualization.

    P.S. If “God” thought 100 metres (guessed by historians to be the height of the tower) was bad enough to confuse and alienate people by letting them speak different languages, than what penalty do or did we get for building 500 metre high skyscrapers? Could it be SPAM? ;-)

  • October 25, 2009 at 5:24 am

    This is so true, and VERY annoying.

    I also find Facebook does the same shit, i’ve been trying to meet different people outside of my city, and it’s damn near impossible without stumbling into people from the same area.

  • November 10, 2010 at 9:25 am

    nice site

  • March 29, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    […] in English and Google.nl mastersofmedia.hum.uva.nl […]

  • May 9, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    […] Google.nl in English and mastersofmedia.hum.uva.nl […]

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