Google Alerts Searchers In China When Queries May Cause Problems

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Google announced today that it will now notify users in mainland China when they enter a keyword that may cause connection issues. Such issues are occurring, according to Google, when users search for a particular subset of queries.

Google shared a video demonstrating what happens:

Google says it has not found any problems with its own systems.

"By prompting people to revise their queries, we hope to reduce these disruptions and improve our user experience from mainland China. Of course, if users want to press ahead with their original queries they can carry on," explains Alan Eustace, Senior Vice President, Knowledge at Google. "In order to figure out which keywords are causing problems, a team of engineers in the U.S. reviewed the 350,000 most popular search queries in China. In their research, they looked at multiple signals to identify the disruptive queries, and from there they identified specific terms at the root of the issue."

"We’ve observed that many of the terms triggering error messages are simple everyday Chinese characters, which can have different meanings in different contexts," Eustace continues. "For example a search for the single character [江] (Jiāng, a common surname that also means “river”) causes a problem on its own, but 江 is also part of other common searches like [丽江] (Lijiang, the name of a city in Yunnan Province), [锦江之星] (the Jinjiang Star hotel chain), and [江苏移动] (Jiangsu Mobile, a mobile phone service). Likewise, searching for [周] (Zhōu, another common surname that also means “week”) triggers an error message, so including this character in other searches—like [周杰伦] (Jay Chou, the Taiwanese pop star), [周星驰] (Stephen Chow, a popular comedian from Hong Kong), or any publication that includes the word “week”—would also be problematic."

Google will show a message to the user when they search for things it thinks might trigger the issues:

Google Hong Kong messge

Google will still let the searcher try to search, or edit their search terms and try a different approach to the query. still redirects to Google Hong Kong, since Google pulled its search engine out of China a couple years ago.

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

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