Does Google’s Gmail discriminate against overseas customers?

I’ve read all about the challenges that Google has with its search engine and news results in foreign countries, and I’ve even written about how Google’s Orkut social networking solution is attracting Brazilian drug dealers, but I’d always blithly supposed that the Gmail service was at least country neutral.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I received the following email from a correspondent, reporting his investigation when he started to read about the new auto-save feature in Gmail, but not seeing it when he logged in…

I was pretty upset that I wasn’t seeing the new features, so I sent an email via “Contact Us” in GMail Help but received no response. Understandable due to the quantity of messages they must get.
I found a couple of Forums discussing this issue. Quite a few complaining not only now but in the past about not receiving new features.
Some of the theories advanced were:
– accounts on servers not yet updated,
– new features only offered to random users,
– new features are only offered to newer users
But what caught my attention was that one user mentioned that changing the GMail language settings (which can be done through Settings –> General –> Language) to English (US) would fix the problem, though there wasn’t anything else I found that seemed to agree with this suggestion.
I don’t remember fiddling with my language settings but thought I’d check it anyway. Guess what? Mine was set as English (UK).
I changed it to English (US) and whamo! I had “New! Auto-save and more” in the top right hand side of the screen, what I’ve been wanting for quite some time now. Even better, it also enabled the Contacts Export feature, which I’ve really wanted to use since I first heard about it.

I find this a fascinating situation and while I understand the caution with which Google rolls out new features on a popular service like Gmail, it’s hard not to be intensely curious about this particular method of limiting access to specific features.
But no, I’m not going to become a paranoid conspiracy nut about Google. Not this time, at least.

3 comments on “Does Google’s Gmail discriminate against overseas customers?

  1. Well, considering how they like to be in beta forever and to introduce new features into their products gradually, I don’t see why they couldn’t start with the American customers first and extend the service later. Besides, they don’t owe it to anyone…

  2. It seems a funny old thing to have a language dependency on but I can understand that rolling it out to all users may take time.
    It’s one way to have a limited beta group.
    Personally I’d be happy for them to add an English (NZ) language set and test all their new features on us 😉 We’re a tech savvy, early adopting type of country who use gmail extensively.

  3. I would assume something much simpler.
    I would bet that the Javascript code for ‘save draft’ uses a shortcut or something to address it which does not match the names of something in other languages.

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