You say Sea of Japan. I say East Sea.

Who said the life of a map maker isn’t interesting?

Every other day it seems there is another disputed territory, which usually means another disputed name.

I’ve already mentioned the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas issue.

On the other side of the planet there is a dispute brewing over the Sea of Japan.

South Korea maintains that the body of water should be known as the East Sea.

Japan disagrees.

Now I’m not going to wade into these murky waters by picking a side.

But if you’re a map maker, you’ve got a tough decision to make, unless you wisely decide to take a more neutral approach.

Here is how Google handles the issue currently:

Google Sea of Japan East Sea

And this from Bing:

Bing Sea of Japan East Sea

Of the two approaches, Microsoft appears more tactful. I’m not sure Google’s approach is as pleasing to South Koreans.

And there is a takeaway from this issue that every global executive should always keep in mind — maps often convey cultural and geopolitical biases. Use caution when you use maps on websites and in promotional campaigns.

 

Gmail leads the global (as in non-Latin) email race

It’s official.

internationalized_email_address

Gmail supports (to a degree) non-Latin email addresses.

That is, you can receive an email from someone with a non-Latin email address, as well as send an email to such an address.

You cannot (yet) setup a Google email account with a non-Latin address, though this is coming. As well as support across Google’s many other web services.

I wrote about this a few weeks ago.

And I view this as a missed opportunity for competitive email providers — an opportunity to get a competitive advantage on Google.

As much as we like to bash Google for privacy issues (many well deserved) the company continues to lead when it comes to supporting the world’s Internet users.

I would love to see Microsoft and Apple put up a good fight in this regard — and would certainly love to help. Because there is still an opportunity for a company to innovate on the usability end of actual implementation. But, most of all, I want to see how non-Latin email addresses lead to a new era in non-Latin domain names, brand names, services, and business models.

After all, this feature may be viewed as a luxury right now but it’s going to quickly be viewed as necessity.

Google launches its first Japanese IDN

I’ve long talked about the importance of non-Latin domain names, or IDNs (Internationalized Domain Names).

Google has gone live with one if its many IDNs: みんな.

I want to emphasize here that this is a top-level IDN — that is, the equivalent of a .com or .org.

This TLD, according to Google, stands for “everyone.”

So you could in effect register “someword.everyone,” which sounds a bit odd to me but I’m not Japanese.

And, frankly, the Japanese have not been blessed with much in the way of IDN options up to this point.

There is no Japanese-language country code, for instance. And few Japanese-based companies have been aggressive in promoting IDNs.

The new Google IDN website leads with a headline that translates to Let’s Start With.Everyone.

japanese IDN Google

Check out the video to get a good idea of how Google is positioning this domain against .com and .jp:

Despite the fancy website and video, I don’t believe Google is fully invested in the success of this domain.

If it were invested, the domain wouldn’t cost roughly $18 to register (by my rough calculations).

But that doesn’t mean Google can’t become invested in it at a later point.

The good news is that Google is moving ahead on commercializing IDNs.

I expect other tech companies to follow. 

How the NSA is threatening the future of Google, Facebook, Amazon and others

NSA Prism

When I read government arguments in defense of the NSA, an oft-repeated line was:

We’re not targeting Americans. We’re targeting foreigners.

Foreigners.

I really dislike that word.

And I’m sure companies like Apple, Google and Facebook do as well.

Why?

Because 80% of Google’s customers are foreigners.

More than 50% of Microsoft’s revenue come from foreigners.

Most of Facebook’s users are foreigners.

Apple gets more than 12% of its revenues from China.

And now these foreigners are well aware that their emails and texts and Facebook posts may have been scanned by the US intelligence industry.

I was asked by a tech company recently about what factors could disrupt their current globalization plans in the years ahead.

The NSA was at the top of my list.

We now see a rush of new and established tech companies around the world to create services that are located entirely out of reach of the US government (no matter how impractical this may appear). According to this WSJ article (reg required):

Three of Germany’s largest email providers, including partly state-owned Deutsche Telekom AG teamed up to offer a new service, Email Made in Germany. The companies promise that by encrypting email through German servers and hewing to the country’s strict privacy laws, U.S. authorities won’t easily be able to pry inside. More than a hundred thousand Germans have flocked to the service since it was rolled out in August.

So what does the COO of Facebook have to say about this?

“We should all be nervous when countries impose costly new requirements on companies as a condition of serving their citizens,” says Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. “It means fragmenting the Internet and putting the economic and social opportunities it creates at risk.”

The companies that are most nervous are the large established players, like, um, Facebook.

For start-ups around the world, this news is actually good news. From the same article:

For small German companies competing against big ones—like online-security company Symantec Corp. and Amazon.com Inc. which provides corporate cloud services—the NSA surveillance program “is a present from heaven,” says Oliver Dehning, chief executive of antispameuropeGmbH, which builds spam-protection software. “It’s kind of an opportunity to strike back and protect our home market.”

The fact is, the Balkanization of the Internet is not a new trend, but the NSA (no thanks to Snowden) accelerated it.

Do foreigners care about their email being scanned?

If the Germans are a leading indicator, perhaps so.

Though this article would indicate that Europeans largely are not concerned about the goings on of the security agencies. After all, it wasn’t just the US government at work here; there were other governments involved.

But I think the threat to US-based tech companies is real (perception, after all, is reality). I think the impact will be felt years from now, when there are new and competitive service providers taking a distinctly local approach to their offerings. This is where global service providers get uneasy. It’s difficult to compete with a “local by design” business when you are a “global by design.”

The sad part about all of this is that China — the poster child of Internet privacy violators — suddenly doesn’t look all that bad.

UPDATE: US tech leaders visited Washington, again, and warned of the Balkanization of the Internet.

 

When country codes go generic

Register .co

The .co domain is the country code of Colombia.

But a few years back Colombia sold its soul (I mean, licensed its country code).

So now .co can be registered pretty much by anyone, similar to generic top-level domains such as .com and .net.

Over the past few years the .co domain has become quite popular, used by startups such as Vine.co and Donuts.co. Twitter uses t.co as a link shortener.

When you register a country code for use as a generic domain, you want to be sure that search engines don’t view your website as limited to only that country.

Fortunately, Google is on top of the situation.

According to Search Engine Roundtable, here are the country codes (ccTLDs) Google now treats as generic:

  • ad
  • as
  • bz
  • cc
  • cd
  • co
  • dj
  • fm
  • gg
  • io
  • la
  • me
  • ms
  • nu
  • sc
  • sr
  • su
  • tv
  • tk
  • ws

But what if I want my country code to act like a country code?

Let’s suppose you’re a business located in Colombia and you  register .co. You want search engines to recognize your domain as a country code, not some globally generic identifier.

Well, there’s a solution for this as well, at least with Google. Using Google Webmaster Tools you can tell Google to view your domain not as generic but as specific to a country or region.

It’s not the most elegant solution and I’m unclear on if/how Bing manages the issue, but it’s where we stand today with the world’s largest search engine.

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