Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Google Messing Up I18n

People often seem to think Google can do no wrong; an image helped no doubt by being surrounded by companies such as Microsoft and Apple. But, even with all those computer science PhD's it snapped up, it sometimes just does not get it.

Once a month or so, Google resets back to showing me the search results in Japanese, and only searching Japanese pages. My browser is set to say I prefer English pages, but it ignores that and uses my IP address. Japanese people use a Japanese browser that will send a header saying they want to see Japanese. Unless they actually want to see English. Why is Google ignoring this?

Perhaps Google needs fewer PhD's and more people who know what this header means:
Accept-Language en-gb,en;q=0.5

Google (!) tells me Google need to look at section 14.4 of RFC2616.

But, the user-unfriendliness goes deeper. Here is how I get out of Japanese mode.
Click: 検索オプション
Find: 言語 検索対象にする言語
and scroll down to find and select 英語

No! No, no, no! It just goes to show, even though I read Japanese I still messed up. Here is the correct way:

In the top-right of the search results click "設定 ▼" then 検索設定
In the line that says 表示言語の設定 scroll down to select 英語.
Then find the button in top-right that says 保存。When it pops up something that looks like an error message (but is actually a success message), press OK.

Hopefully I'm good for another month.

But the point of my rant is the only piece of English on any of those pages was "google". Not a single helpful line such as "switch this page to English". Perhaps they should use the Accept-Language header to decide what language the user would most like to see a "switch this page to XXX" link in?

Well, rant over. Google have been doing this for 10 years, so I don't expect they're going to change any time soon.


keith.s.wilkinson said...

I have one PC that usually gives me search results only in Japanese--even though my Google search preferences are set to give search results in both English and Japanese--and another PC that virtually always gets it right.
In both cases I'm starting the search from the browser's search box. If I start the search from the Google web site then it seems that Google reads my saved search preferences from a cookie and gets it right. I think the difference between the results using search boxes on the two PCs must be the result of differences in (hidden) search parameters passed by the search box. Haven't yet explored how to fix that. Maybe if I installed and used the Google search toolbar (rather than the browser search box) it would always get my preferences right.

darren said...

Hi Keith,
Word of warning: the Google search toolbar was almost impossible to uninstall in my experience. (I think I did manage it on one machine in the end, but that was by hunting around in firefox's directory and physically deleting the files.)
I wanted to delete it as it noisily insisted on upgrading to the latest version, and I didn't want to.

keith.s.wilkinson said...

I also have Google Toolbar on a second machine and it noisily insists on upgrading itself and I don't want to either. But I use Zone Alarm and can prevent it from accessing the Internet (or at least upgrading itself). I believe that you can choose whether to share your search data anonymously and get page rank info. in return, or not to share (my choice).