Google said it is redirecting its search users in Kazakhstan to its primary Google.com domain after the government in the central Asian country attempted to place controls on Internet use there.
Under President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the Ministry of Communications and Information in Kazakhstan ordered all .kz domain names to run on server computers inside that country.
This mandate means that Google would have to route all searches to google.kz, a localized version if its search engine, to servers located within Kazakhstan's borders. As it is in most countries, Google is the leading search engine.
This is counter to Google's cloud computing model, where searches are facilitated by thousands of servers running in parallel to deliver users results as quickly as possible.
"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," wrote Bill Coughran, of research and systems infrastructure, in a blog post June 8.
"If we were to operate google.kz only via servers located inside Kazakhstan, we would be helping to create a fractured Internet."
Thus finding Kazakhstan's rules untenable, Google is sending visitors to its google.kz domain to google.com, where the results will not be customized for Kazakhstani users. This will mean a reduction in search quality, something that Google works hard to avoid.
But in taking this stand for a free Web, Google believes it is siding with the lesser of two evils, as Coughran noted:
"Measures that force Internet companies to choose between taking actions that harm the open Web, or reducing the quality of their services, hurt users."
This isn't the first time Google has had to fiddle with search results in countries.
Google ceased censoring search results in China in January 2010 after a cyber-attack it believed originated in that country infiltrated Gmail accounts.
Google earlier this month said hundreds of Gmail accounts were hacked by attackers from Jinan, China, an accusation the Chinese government refuted.