Thursday, February 02, 2012

Blogger confusion

Contrary to what some may think, I am not, by nature, a conspiracy theorist, anti-establishment moaner or even a full-time cynic, though at times I can be one or all three. Having said that, I want to throw a concern "out there" and see if anyone can help me understand something.

Recently Google made a change to its Blogger blogging platform (which powers this blog). It now takes the URL which normally ends in dot com and has it resolve for readers outside the US to the same URL, but with one's country TLD instead. So, for example, instead of seeing my blog as "amerinz.blogspot.com", New Zealanders will see "amerinz.blogspot.co.nz" and, I presume, other countries will see something similar (like "amerinz.blogspot.co.uk" and "amerinz.blogspot.com.au"—maybe folks in those countries can let me know if that's true).

My question/concern is this: What's the point of this if not to enable country-specific censorship? Is there anything even remotely beneficial to the blogger or reader in this change? I honestly can't see or think of a positive reason for it, unless Google is mirroring the blog locally, maybe, but I seriously doubt they are.

I first found out about this when all the comments on a Blogger blog I visit every day suddenly disappeared. It turns out, Google’s change wreaked havoc with blogs that use custom comment systems (like JS-Kit, for example). I can't see any comments left on a dot com Blogger blog that uses such a system—including my own comments I left before the change. I assume the change could also muck-up other customisations, too.

I’ve since discovered that using an anonymiser like Little Tunnel Bear (http://www.tunnelbear.com/) can get around this problem. I’ve also read that the IP blocker Hotspot Shield (http://hotspotshield.com/) does the same thing, though I haven’t tried it yet.

The point is, it shouldn’t be this hard, and it doesn’t really matter whether the problem lies with Google or JS-Kit: Location doesn’t mean anything for the users of the Internet, it only matters to certain content providers—and governments—who have a vested interest in restricting access. Also, Google lets you use the dot com or, in my case, the dot co dot nz version, so why don’t they allow that for Blogger?

I'm well aware that I could use another blogging platform or self-host as my podcasts are, but I'm not even sure I care that much. However, if it really is all about making censorship easier, that could be reason for me to abandon Blogger.

I hope that someone can shed some light on this.

I first published an earlier version of this post on Google+.


Roger Owen Green said...

No light here, but your theory sounds valid, on the face.

Arthur Schenck said...

So far, I haven't heard any alternative explanations—credible or not. So far, I haven't even been able to find where Google said they were doing this. And, after I posted this, I was told on Google+ that there doesn't seen to be a dot uk version.

David said...

It's web censorship! They're doing it so that they can block out news on a country by country basis. http://canadu.blogspot.com/2012/02/censorship-alert-google-introduces.html Plus I don't think any of the local URL's have any PageRank...Even after yesterday's update. Nice to see your blog: It was a good read.