Google has pulled its search engine at google.kz out of Kazakhstan, where the country’s government is requiring all .kz domain names to be operated from servers located in the country. Now when you go to google.kz, you’re redirected to google.com/webhp?hl=kk.
Google says its users in kazakhstan may see a decrease in search quality, but that the company does not want to contribute to a fractured Internet. Here is the entire explanation from Google SVP, Research & Systems Infrastructure, Bill Coughan, as posted on the official Google Blog:
The genius of the Internet has always been its open infrastructure, which allows anyone with a connection to communicate with anyone else on the network. It’s not limited by national boundaries, and it facilitates free expression, commerce and innovation in ways that we could never have imagined even 20 or 30 years ago.
Some governments, however, are attempting to create borders on the web without full consideration of the consequences their actions may have on their own citizens and the economy. Last month, the Kazakhstan Network Information Centre notified us of an order issued by the Ministry of Communications and Information in Kazakhstan that requires all .kz domain names, such as google.kz, to operate on physical servers within the borders of that country. This requirement means that Google would have to route all searches on google.kzto servers located inside Kazakhstan. (Currently, when users search on any of our domains, our systems automatically handle those requests the fastest way possible, regardless of national boundaries.)
We find ourselves in a difficult situation: creating borders on the web raises important questions for us not only about network efficiency but also about user privacy and free expression. If we were to operate google.kz only via servers located inside Kazakhstan, we would be helping to create a fractured Internet. So we have decided to redirect users that visit google.kz to google.com in Kazakh. Unfortunately, this means that Kazakhstani users will experience a reduction in search quality as results will no longer be customized for Kazakhstan.
Measures that force Internet companies to choose between taking actions that harm the open web, or reducing the quality of their services, hurt users. We encourage governments and other stakeholders to work together to preserve an open Internet, which empowers local users, boosts local economies and encourages innovation around the globe.
It’s not that surprising that Google would make such a move, as the company has promoted an “open” web consistently for years, and after the ordeal with China, they made it clear that they’re not above pulling out of a country, and frankly, China is a much bigger economy than Kazakhstan.
Still, it is interesting that this comes at the sacrifice of search quality, and that Google is openly pointing this out, at a time when Google’s search quality has been heavily criticized and iterated upon relentlessly by the company, with recent algorithm updates.