I was having a discussion today about URLs and associated behaviors with a colleague who works with many of our international subsidiaries. In the course of the conversation, we came to the topic of IP reverse lookup and it’s pros/cons for geo-detection and content routing. In the past, we’ve used this technique as a last ditch effort to try and route a user to the most relevant possible version of a site or page (by last ditch, I mean to say that there’s no info provided by the URL, by user preferences, or by browser headers). However, my colleague had some general concerns about using it at all – a couple reasons were:
- Geo-detection systems based on IP addresses tend to have problems with accuracy as the result of things like proxy servers
- We’re making a decision based on information about you that you are not able to control (unlike something like your browser language or any other HTTP header)
We talked through several different scenarios, including user scenarios like that of a business traveler who may want to see content in his language but see local events for the region in which he is traveling. We also talked through several of the different geo-political scenarios where users in a country may speak the same language as users in another country, but should never be automatically directed to the site of that other country for legal reasons.
In the end, the question came down to whether or not we should use any form of implicit user context to make any kind of default content routing decision (e.g. browser lang or geo-detection). Making the choice explicit would certainly disambiguate the Web site’s behavior for users, though it would also add a step for first time visitors.
What are your thoughts/experiences in this area? Any good pointers to articles/reference that helped?