Memo to online companies: Please Stop Georedirecting

I’ve written many times here at The Inquisitr and on other sites before about my complete hatred of georetarding, the blocking of content, particularly (but not exclusively) video content based on a users location in the world. In a online world which allegedly has no borders, sites that use georetardation play by old school rules, and ruin the web experience for those outside the United States. For example, there’s nothing more annoying than reading a blog post on a site to find it concludes in a Hulu embed that can’t be played, despite the fact the content providers themselves usually offer it globally from their own sites.

But there’s a new trend starting to emerge that might not be as restrictive as georetardation, but it’s annoying none the less: georedirecting.

Georedirecting is the act of forcibly redirecting a site visitor to a local version of a web page. It’s not a new idea, but it’s rapidly spreading in 2008.

The worst offender is Google. I wrote on my personal blog at the beginning of November about my disgust with YouTube redirects. Mostly it’s not a big issue; if I try to visit a YouTube page here in Australia, they insert “au” where the www usually goes, and 99 times out of 100 I see the same video. Where it becomes an issue is when I try to view non-video content, like the YouTube blog. Every time I try to visit the official YouTube blog, I get redirected to the Australian one, which is entirely different to the US one, so I don’t get to see the blog post. Better still: there’s ZERO way I can switch back to the American one. It’s sort of georetardation by stealth, with a bizarre outcome.

Google also georedirects visits to Google.com, and presumably for anyone outside of the United States, not just Australia. All very well and good, except that the “web” option (you get a choice of Web or Australia) on Google Australia doesn’t deliver the same results as general web search on Google.com itself, it favors local sites where as Google (US) doesn’t. Unlike YouTube, you do at least get the option of switching to Google.com from Google.com.au (after you’ve been redirected there), but why the hell can’t I just type in Google.com and just hit Google.com when I want Google.com, not Google.com.au

Yahoo is a newer entrant to the georedirecting field. I don’t hit Yahoo that often, so this may have been in place for some time, but when I type in Yahoo.com I’m now redirected to Yahoo Australia. Now I do occasionally visit Yahoo Australia, mostly because they have good TV listings for the few times per week I might watch broadcast television, but at other times I want Yahoo.com because they have better news that I’ll occasionally view. My relationship with Yahoo.com also goes back a long time; it was perhaps one of the first sites I ever visited in 1995, and I can still remember getting on Yahoo.com in 96 and marvelling at their amazing directory of interesting webpages. Apparently that’s no longer possible, at least directly. Like Google, you are given an option to visit the US version on the page, but you’re no longer allowed to visit it directly.

There are other examples I won’t bore you with, but the practice is growing. One last one is Gawker Media’s deal with Allure Media in Australia for the Australian versions of some of the Gawker Media titles. For example, Lifehacker.com is redirected to Lifehacker.com.au, and while I have time for both sites, if I type Lifehacker.com into a browser, I want to visit Lifehacker.com. If I put the .au on the end, it’s because I want the local version.

Here’s my bleg to tech companies. I understand and respect your desire to promote local portals, but treating your customers as if they were retarded and forcing them to see what they don’t want to see will eventually come back to bite you when a new generation of competitors emerge who understand the need to treat their customers (ie: us) with respect. Please stop georedirecting. By all means add a geotargeted link to the global product and promote it via ads if you like, but appreciate our business without forcing us to view what we don’t want to view.