Google redirects Kazakh search traffic

Google is rerouting searches from Kazakhstan after authorities there enforced a rule that .kz domains be hosted locally

Google is redirecting visitors to its Kazakhstan site, google.kz, to a page in Kazakh at google.com, after the country's government warned it would begin enforcing a nine-month-old rule requiring .kz domain names to point to servers in the country

The Kazakhstan government informed Google last month of the Sept. 7, 2010, regulation requiring all .kz domain names, including google.kz, to operate on servers within the country, Google said.

This means Google's Kazakhstan site would have to route all search queries through local servers, instead of handling the requests on servers across the globe, which would be faster, according to the company.

Google's senior vice president Bill Coughran said in a blog post on Tuesday that the new regulation would help "create a fractured Internet," that would also raise questions about network efficiency, along with user privacy and free expression. The company further urged governments to work together to "preserve an open Internet" not defined by national boundaries.

As a result, visitors to google.kz are immediately redirected to a Kazakh language version of google.com.

"Unfortunately, this means that Kazakhstani users will experience a reduction in search quality as results will no longer be customized for Kazakhstan," Google said in its blog post.

Kazakhstan's Ministry of Communications and Information did not immediately respond for comment. The Kazakhstan Network Information Center, which informed Google of the new regulation, also did not respond.

This is not the first time Google has decided to redirect search queries in response to government regulations. Last year, the company announced it would no longer censor its search results in China, a move that sparked criticism from the nation's government officials.

Google had previously operated a China-based search engine that would filter out sensitive political terms in order to meet Chinese government regulations. But the company decided it would end the censorship following a cyberattack coming from China that targeted the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.

Now when users visit google.cn, they are redirected to google.com.hk, which provides an unfiltered search engine. Since the China-based search engine was shutdown, Google's presence in the market has diminished, according to analysts. The company's share of the Chinese search engine market is now at 19 percent, a major drop from the 35 percent it once had at the end of 2009, according to Beijing-based research firm Analysys International.

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service

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