Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hey, Google, Pay Attention to Africa!

To any Google representatives or robots:

1) Liberian IP addresses do not originate from an Arabic speaking country. Despite choosing "lb" as their country suffix--a suffix I'm sure that Lebanon or Libya engaged much earlier--Liberia continues to be an English speaking country. Making Google and its affiliates load, automatically, into Arabic effectively prevents Google products from reaching this increasingly technologically capable country.

It might be worth doing a quick check of other African country suffixes to see if this same issue is happening in any other unlikely places. It is a small but crippling obstacle to accessing Google products.

2) Why not make an obvious way to escape a presumptuously translated UI? A simple array of flags to indicate other language options would be way easier than assuming that your average users have figured out what "language" looks like in Arabic, Amharic, Kiswahili, etc.

3) Googledocs is too heavy to load on slow connections (even if they are fast enough to host gchat). Is there a basic html toggle option to help your dedicated googledocs users access their materials when they are in the developing world?

If anyone knows how to more effectively bring these issues to the attention of Google's powerful strata, please let me know. These issues are affecting millions of switched on computer users.


  1. Radio silence on that front for over a year now.

  2. what about

  3. gah!

    i can't copy and paste here and can't type either. try this:

    basically the web search forum. i think they would be interested...

  4. Hi Nathaniel,
    I work at Google and just forwarded these problems along to the internationalization team. Sorry for the trouble! No promises about when and how this will be addressed (I'm a ux designer and not on the internationalization team myself) but this definitely sounds like something we need to fix.

  5. Ted,

    Thanks so much. I was in an internet cafe today in downtown Monrovia, and the amount of Arabic that I saw loading on people's screens was pretty disconcerting.

    Definitely no Arabic speakers in the crowd. I wonder what other country suffixes are causing confusions like this.


  6. Hi Nathaniel,
    It sounds as though your ip addresses (and others in Liberia) are getting misidentified. If you send me your ip address to tedp (at) I'll pass this along to the appropriate person.