The network connection we're using during the development conference in Japan is provided by Y! Japan BroadBand. No surprise there. The real surprise came when I switched over to a terminal and typed:

$ lynx

Google "helpfully" noticed that I'm in Japan and sent me to their Japanese site. The problem with this, of course, is that I neither read or speak Japanese.

The solution is quite simple:

$ lynx

Using Yahoo! Search gives me an English with a Google back-end. Remarkably, that's what I was expecting Google to provide for me.

The lesson here is that IP-based geo-targeting doesn't always do what you expect. Is it really intended to be a substitute for proper branding and marketing of Beats me. Are the Japanese too dumb to try visiting a native language site on their own? I think not. Maybe Google does?

Update: Retarded. If I accept Google's cookies it works. But when I block them I end up on the Japanese site. Why on earth are cookies necessary when a simple redirect will do? I dunno.

Posted by jzawodn at October 21, 2003 10:09 PM

Reader Comments
# Brad Fitzpatrick said:

It should be based on your HTTP headers sent, depending on what preferred language you have set in your browser.

Perhaps lynx isn't sending that, so it's falling back to geo-IP?

on October 21, 2003 10:16 PM
# Alden Bates said:

What's even more useful is when you go to the settings page of to change the language which all the messages are displayed in, all of the language names (except for six at the top...) are in Kanji... Finding "English" would be a bit of a chore. ;)

OTOH, at least there's a link to on the front page...

on October 21, 2003 10:42 PM
# Alden Bates said:

Er, though I'm told that the text is actually a mixture of kanji and katakana (In case anyone was ready to correct me :)

on October 21, 2003 10:49 PM
# david said:

I remember this and I thought of it as a really cool trick. Nothing more, and a little annoying.

on October 21, 2003 11:06 PM
# Rasmus said:

They have been doing this for ages. The way around it is to just go to

on October 21, 2003 11:24 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:


That still takes me to the Japanese site.


on October 21, 2003 11:31 PM
# Rasmus said:

Turn on your cookies man

on October 22, 2003 01:24 AM
# John Simon said:

yes, google did this in Korea too, since 2000. the problem is, if you don't use their Korean (or Japanese) site, it's really hard to search for Korean web pages. hence it's understandable for most of the users.

a trick: go to (don't forget to escape '?' tho) after failing the search, it should stay in the English page.

on October 22, 2003 04:27 AM
# Jason Lotito said:

I live up here in Montreal, but I am American. So everytime I go to the page, it's Canadian focused. I have cookies on, and whatever, it just redirects me to

Not that I really care, I can still read everything just fine. However, puts all my news for Canada. I personally would like to see what's going on in my home country..but that can still be accomplished.

So, they do a bit of both, looking at the language string, AND geo-IP'ing you.

on October 22, 2003 06:49 AM
# Tara Calishain said:

What if you try to go to the WAP site? Does that work?

on October 22, 2003 08:03 AM
# Joe Nog said:

At least Google doesn't charge $300 to review sites.

on October 22, 2003 12:41 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:


Works fine.


on October 22, 2003 04:35 PM
# test said:

test comment

on October 29, 2003 10:56 PM
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone. My current, past, or previous employers are not responsible for what I write here, the comments left by others, or the photos I may share. If you have questions, please contact me. Also, I am not a journalist or reporter. Don't "pitch" me.


Privacy: I do not share or publish the email addresses or IP addresses of anyone posting a comment here without consent. However, I do reserve the right to remove comments that are spammy, off-topic, or otherwise unsuitable based on my comment policy. In a few cases, I may leave spammy comments but remove any URLs they contain.