Google (and other sites) sucks for travelers

OK, if Google knows so much about me, why is it giving me all result pages in Spanish this morning and taking me to Google Mexico? After all, the cookie on my machine hasn’t been erased. They have all my history. Have I ever done a search in Spanish? No. Have I ever translated something from English to Spanish? No. Have I ever visited Google’s Mexico site at http://www.google.com.mx ? No.

So, why, when I want to go to google.com, does it redirect to google.com.mx and give me everything in Spanish?

Hey, Matt Cutts, can you tell the various teams around the world to PLEASE pry into my privacy details somehow and figure out that I speak English, that I want to go to the real Google site (search results are different on the Mexican site than on the English one)?

Oh, and Google isn’t alone. Yesterday I attended a workshop where they were using MySpace. It switched to Spanish too, even though the computers were all setup in America and had English operating systems loaded.

Same thing happened when we were in Germany and Switzerland too.

77 thoughts on “Google (and other sites) sucks for travelers

  1. Hi, Matt Cutts – but what to do when you try to comment on someones blogspot, being let’s say in Mexico and the whole standard blogger 2.0 comment page is, oops, in spanish. Where is the link now? It took me 30 minutes, I’m not stupid, I almost give up.

  2. Are you in Mexico? If so, go to the bottom of google.com and look for the “Google.com in English” link. Clicking that will remember that you want Google in English, not one of those other languages. :)

  3. Are you in Mexico? If so, go to the bottom of google.com and look for the “Google.com in English” link. Clicking that will remember that you want Google in English, not one of those other languages. :)

  4. I remember a Google guy being very proud of this when I was asked if I knew how Google picks which language to display for the search page. I had some personal experience with this useless technical solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

    Although I think I mentioned this isn’t always the best user experience, I guess I was too polite to say that this has irritated me immensely when traveling to Asia. I’d much rather the service respect my language preferences… as long as a user’s Windows (or MacOS) language settings are right, the browser default “accept-language” headers should work for almost everyone, and that’s more than you can say for the Google solution.

    The only time the Google approach helps is for disambiguating which market to use (English-Canada vs. English-US, for example). And in that case, it should just be a secondary factor.

  5. I remember a Google guy being very proud of this when I was asked if I knew how Google picks which language to display for the search page. I had some personal experience with this useless technical solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

    Although I think I mentioned this isn’t always the best user experience, I guess I was too polite to say that this has irritated me immensely when traveling to Asia. I’d much rather the service respect my language preferences… as long as a user’s Windows (or MacOS) language settings are right, the browser default “accept-language” headers should work for almost everyone, and that’s more than you can say for the Google solution.

    The only time the Google approach helps is for disambiguating which market to use (English-Canada vs. English-US, for example). And in that case, it should just be a secondary factor.

  6. You pointed out the sites that disappointed you. Were there any sites which did what you expected?

  7. You pointed out the sites that disappointed you. Were there any sites which did what you expected?

  8. Robert, I have to agree with LayZ above… get off the grid when you’re in Cabo. You even said you’d do so in your post just before you left. You’ll live and your readers will still love you when you return.

    But on topic:
    I SECOND THAT! Listen up GOOGLE!!! When I was skiing in Whistler (yep, got on the grid), I kept getting Canadian Google, which sucked. It’s simple, just provide a country and language preference in my google profile.

  9. Robert, I have to agree with LayZ above… get off the grid when you’re in Cabo. You even said you’d do so in your post just before you left. You’ll live and your readers will still love you when you return.

    But on topic:
    I SECOND THAT! Listen up GOOGLE!!! When I was skiing in Whistler (yep, got on the grid), I kept getting Canadian Google, which sucked. It’s simple, just provide a country and language preference in my google profile.

  10. You’re in CABO for God’s sake!! What the HELL are you doing surfing the internet? You should surfing the ocean! :-)

  11. You’re in CABO for God’s sake!! What the HELL are you doing surfing the internet? You should surfing the ocean! :-)

  12. I found this annoying as well – I was trying to demonstrate how easy my dad’s life would be if he switched from hotmail to using gmail and associated apps. Needless to say my dad is still using hotmail.

  13. I agree that it’s silly they do this. I’ve been using Google Suggest the past year or so and I find it to be a much stronger solution than regular, old, re-direct ya to spanish Google.

  14. I agree that it’s silly they do this. I’ve been using Google Suggest the past year or so and I find it to be a much stronger solution than regular, old, re-direct ya to spanish Google.

  15. I found this annoying as well – I was trying to demonstrate how easy my dad’s life would be if he switched from hotmail to using gmail and associated apps. Needless to say my dad is still using hotmail.

  16. Point taken, but I have nothing to offer except another geek-to-geek answer:

    http://www.google.com/ncr

    The “ncr” in the URL stands for “no country redirect.”

    In fact, if you do a Google search for [google.com/ncr], you’ll find a bunch of blog entries from people who have gone through the same thing you have. Chris at Port80 software wrote about this in 2004, and he mentioned that a “Google.com in English” link appears on the non-English pages. Did that not happen for you?

  17. I hate that to. I’m from Argentina, I live in México, and there’s no problem if you type .ar, or .mx (being in the other location), but the only way I can access the international (or American) Google (…com/) site is by going to my IG and making an effort to not let them personalize my Google as a Spanish speaking person. If I ever type …com.mx/ig i’m lost.

    MySpace is a lost case, but I don’t care much.

  18. Point taken, but I have nothing to offer except another geek-to-geek answer:

    http://www.google.com/ncr

    The “ncr” in the URL stands for “no country redirect.”

    In fact, if you do a Google search for [google.com/ncr], you’ll find a bunch of blog entries from people who have gone through the same thing you have. Chris at Port80 software wrote about this in 2004, and he mentioned that a “Google.com in English” link appears on the non-English pages. Did that not happen for you?

  19. I hate that to. I’m from Argentina, I live in México, and there’s no problem if you type .ar, or .mx (being in the other location), but the only way I can access the international (or American) Google (…com/) site is by going to my IG and making an effort to not let them personalize my Google as a Spanish speaking person. If I ever type …com.mx/ig i’m lost.

    MySpace is a lost case, but I don’t care much.

  20. “Robert Scoble does not use a VPN on holiday”

    neither do I. I’m not willing to take the perf hit from the VPN overhead. I travel with a small router, and hope in between filtering off unsolicited packets and my software firewall, that i’m safe enough. I also do don’t silly stuff like online banking, etc from Mexico.

    If the answer is to just VPN from everywhere, it leaves the average user out to dry (same holds true for traveling with a router); I’m guessing grandma doesn’t have a ubuntu server…..

  21. “Robert Scoble does not use a VPN on holiday”

    neither do I. I’m not willing to take the perf hit from the VPN overhead. I travel with a small router, and hope in between filtering off unsolicited packets and my software firewall, that i’m safe enough. I also do don’t silly stuff like online banking, etc from Mexico.

    If the answer is to just VPN from everywhere, it leaves the average user out to dry (same holds true for traveling with a router); I’m guessing grandma doesn’t have a ubuntu server…..

  22. Greg: that’s a good answer geek to geek, but now what about the rest of the people who are frustrated at this behavior? And, because everything is in Spanish it’s really hard to figure out what to do. I figured it out, but then I’m fairly astute at using computers.

    I watched the behavior of people in the class yesterday. Most just gave up.

  23. Greg: that’s a good answer geek to geek, but now what about the rest of the people who are frustrated at this behavior? And, because everything is in Spanish it’s really hard to figure out what to do. I figured it out, but then I’m fairly astute at using computers.

    I watched the behavior of people in the class yesterday. Most just gave up.

  24. I’m glad you bring this up. It is just very hard to whip some sense into these Google-systems. By now they seem to understand that I prefer to be addressed in English, Dutch or German in stead of Chinese (I’m living in China). But they keep on trying. Minor nuisance: they keep on filtering the pictures I want to see. They regularly change my settings without asking me. I cannot live without them, but otherwise…

  25. I’m glad you bring this up. It is just very hard to whip some sense into these Google-systems. By now they seem to understand that I prefer to be addressed in English, Dutch or German in stead of Chinese (I’m living in China). But they keep on trying. Minor nuisance: they keep on filtering the pictures I want to see. They regularly change my settings without asking me. I cannot live without them, but otherwise…

  26. Robert, you should definitely learned to read german google results ;) SCNR

    But apart from that you’re right and we really have to wonder about this behaviour especially from google.

  27. Robert, you should definitely learned to read german google results ;) SCNR

    But apart from that you’re right and we really have to wonder about this behaviour especially from google.

  28. “Location should be overridden by your search history”

    Actually, if anything, location would be overridden by your HTTP accept language in the HTTP header your browser sends to Google. The fact that it isn’t highlights Google’s awareness of the widespread Piracy problem with windows. With users getting non-localized copies of an operating system.

    What does this tell me about Robert Scoble though?

    Robert Scoble does not use a VPN on holiday and dangerously connects to the internet directly via hotel wifi or eth0 access. Bad bad bad.
    http://www.netgear.com/Products/VPNandSSL/WiredVPNFirewallRouters/FVL328.aspx

    I got this. If your budget doesn’t allow, you can set up secure squid on your ubuntu server.
    You can always claim that your important stuff is in HTTPS, but many, MANY log in screens are in plain old HTTP, and now all those Mexicans have your secret passwords. You can claim “My hotel doesn’t do dumps”, but hey, you’re in Mexico.

  29. “Location should be overridden by your search history”

    Actually, if anything, location would be overridden by your HTTP accept language in the HTTP header your browser sends to Google. The fact that it isn’t highlights Google’s awareness of the widespread Piracy problem with windows. With users getting non-localized copies of an operating system.

    What does this tell me about Robert Scoble though?

    Robert Scoble does not use a VPN on holiday and dangerously connects to the internet directly via hotel wifi or eth0 access. Bad bad bad.
    http://www.netgear.com/Products/VPNandSSL/WiredVPNFirewallRouters/FVL328.aspx

    I got this. If your budget doesn’t allow, you can set up secure squid on your ubuntu server.
    You can always claim that your important stuff is in HTTPS, but many, MANY log in screens are in plain old HTTP, and now all those Mexicans have your secret passwords. You can claim “My hotel doesn’t do dumps”, but hey, you’re in Mexico.

  30. Chris: I already did know this (I had written about this before — I’m playing a bit stupid above, but most users ARE stupid and Google is NOT giving them something they expect when they travel). But it still sucks. Location should be overridden by your search history. Google already tracks that (I turned on Google History and use it on all my browsers) and Google already has a Cookie down on my computer. So, when my browser gets to google.com.mx they should know it’s a previous Google user that’s visiting and should ask “do you want to see the English Google, or the Mexican one?”

  31. Chris: I already did know this (I had written about this before — I’m playing a bit stupid above, but most users ARE stupid and Google is NOT giving them something they expect when they travel). But it still sucks. Location should be overridden by your search history. Google already tracks that (I turned on Google History and use it on all my browsers) and Google already has a Cookie down on my computer. So, when my browser gets to google.com.mx they should know it’s a previous Google user that’s visiting and should ask “do you want to see the English Google, or the Mexican one?”

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