Google is fairly selective about the political battles it takes up. After all, its multi-million a year U.S. lobbying budget can only be stretched so far, and they’ve always preoccupied with the lawsuits across Europe, the U.S., and elsewhere. In the case of a recent battle with a Kazakhstan policy, Google made a simple choice: they pulled their google.kz domain, avoiding the legal battle entirely but harming user experience. The real question here is whether Google’s motive is an altruistic approach to the open web or simply saving money.
Google’s statements on the matter discuss hwo important the internet is as an open medium that is “not limited by national boundaries, and […] facilitates free expression, commerce, and innovation.” And Kazakhstan’s government (or, to be precise, the Kazakhstan Network Information Centre) has stood in the way of this with a new regulation. That regulation states that any site that bears the .kz extension must be coming from a server within the borders of their country.
The Google stance, at least to the public eye, is that this really damages the user experience by fragmenting the web and setting a precedent for other areas to do likewise. The entire ordeal represents questions “not only about network efficiency but also about user privacy and free expression.” So the theory is that the openness of the web is what makes it powerful, and there are things that just aren’t plausible to do if you only allow Kazakhstani servers to provide Kazakhstani sites, which is why Google is now redirecting google.kz to the non–region optimized google.com.
Or it’s about money, on both ends. The Government of Kazakhstan certainly stands to gain from prompting Google and other internet companies who serve their public to bring their business inside the country, where they will then be paying for services, paying taxes, and otherwise bolstering the national economy. But the cost of hopping into a new country and establishing enough servers to reliably provide to the national population is far from spare change, even for Google.
So Google is saying that they’re standing for “an open Internet, which empowers local users, boosts local economies and encourages innovation around the globe,” but the GOOG stock symbol is likely just as big – or bigger – in terms of motivation.
[via the Google Public Policy Blog]