You’ve long been able to get localized search results by visiting Google at different domains — like google.com for the US, google.co.uk for England, or google.co.jp for Japan — but that won’t be the case any more after today. Google said that it’ll now deliver search results relevant to your current location no matter which domain you visit. So if you’re in New York and visit google.ru, you’ll still get results relevant to New York City.
Fortunately, it’ll still be possible to escape your country’s results. You’ll be able to change locations, you’ll just have to do it through the settings menu at the bottom of google.com (which I’m willing to bet you’ve never noticed before because it’s hidden in the corner on the desktop and requires you to scroll down on mobile; I didn’t know it existed before today). By going to settings and then “search settings,” you’ll be able to pick a new location.
Google says it’s making the change because one out of five searches “is related to location,” and the company feels it’s critical to offer local information to provide the best results. The feature seems to be tailored most toward travelers: Google says that if you visit another country, it’ll automatically serve results local to where you’re visiting, then switch back again as soon as you arrive home. Before, if a traveler had kept typing in their home country’s Google domain, they may not have gotten what Google sees as ideal search results.
The change isn’t supposed to affect how Google handles legal requirements, such as the removal of specific results under Europe’s “right to be forgotten.” In an email to The Verge, Google clarified that users will see results removed appropriate for whichever location their search is set to; however, if the country they’re physically in requires results to be removed no matter what, then results will get stripped out regardless of which location they choose.
Apparently this is how Google has been operating many of its existing services already, including YouTube and Gmail. The policy of always serving local results will now apply to desktop and mobile searches, as well as Google Maps and the iOS Google app.