Google to the Internet: Go mobile or watch your sales rank fall

Four years ago, for the Web Globalization Report Card, I began noting (and rewarding) those websites that supported mobile devices. Even then one could easily see the virtual grounds shifting in favor of mobile devices. But at the time, only about 20% of the websites studied supported mobile devices.

In this year’s Report Card, the majority of websites are now mobile friendly. Over the past two years, I’ve witnessed a flurry of newly responsive web designs from a diverse range of companies including Philips, Merck, VMware and Pepsi.

Even Apple now supports a responsive website. Shown below are before and after screen grabs:

apple_responsive

If your company hasn’t yet made the leap to mobile, now is the time to accelerate your plans — unless you don’t care much for your search ranking.

Google has made it abundantly clear that websites that do not support mobile devices are going to suffer.

Beginning April 21st.

According to Google:

Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.

All languages. All regions. This makes great sense given that markets like China and Indonesia are overwhelmingly experiencing the Internet via mobile devices.

Google wants to remain relevant to mobile users which means your website needs to remain relevant to Google.

Which means, ultimately, remaining relevant to your web users. Particularly if you plan to succeed globally.

Mozilla frees web browser from mobile language limitations: A Q&A

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 12.55.33 PM

I was intrigued to read recently that Mozilla is working on updating the Firefox Android mobile browser, codename Fennec, to allow the browser to offer more languages than the underlying Android system currently supports. Typically, apps leverage language support from the underlying operating system, which can sometimes be limiting. So it’s nice to see Mozilla moving beyond this limitation.

To learn more, I asked Mozilla localization engineer Jeff Beatty a few questions. Here’s what he had to say.

Q: With Fennec, Mozilla is effectively freeing the web browser from the language restrictions of the underlying Android OS. Can you detail roughly how many language Android supports vs. the number of languages Fennec will support?

A: This can be a complicated question, because language support is often very broadly defined. What traditionally determines if an app can be localized in the Android OS is the number of languages the OS itself is localized into. Excluding region codes, the Android source code indicates that Google localizes Android into 46 languages. Device manufacturers will often expand that to upwards of 85 languages. Essentially, any Android device can have localizations for between 46 and approximately 85 languages.

By allowing for language switching within the Firefox for Android browser, we’re able to allow users to select from languages that are not offered on their Android device. There are about 16 volunteer Mozilla localization teams who have translated strings for the browser, but have been unable to see their localizations delivered to Firefox users through the Google Play store. Of these, Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Basque, Fulah, and Armenian are on the roadmap to be shipped with the language switching feature in Firefox 32.

Q: How are these additional languages supported by the browser? Specifically, is the language data included in the original install or will data be pulled from the server if the user switches to a language not supported by Android?

A: The language data is included in a multi-locale APK delivered through the Google Play store.

Q: Are there any other localization/culture data dependencies on Android that have proved challenging when it comes to supporting non-Android languages?

A: Absolutely. The language switching piece places us in the right direction, but we’re now confronted with localization issues we haven’t had to encounter before. The benefit of shipping Android-supported languages is that you rarely have to worry about issues with character rendering, Unicode-enabled fonts, ISO locale code support, or in-app region-specific customizations. Now we need to ensure that each of these locales are thoroughly tested for these issues and determine what we can feasibly do to not only support the languages, but also ensure that memory consumption remains low and performance remains high for all users.

Q: Do you have other operating systems planned for this model? For instance, there would be an even greater disparity on iOS that Fennec will address.

A: There are no plans to expand Fennec to ship on iOS. The Flame developer reference phone allows us more freedom to experiment with languages that have never been tested on devices before (like Fulah, certain Indic languages, and indigenous languages in Mexico, for instance). All of these have active localizers and some have even already been using Firefox OS in their language unofficially on localized test / developer builds of Firefox OS.

Q: Finally, was this feature something asked for by users? Do you have any usage data that illustrates demand for a given language/locale that you are now able to support?

A: Users and our volunteer localization community were the primary drivers behind the demand for this feature. Since language coverage is a primary concern for the localization team, we are preparing to meet that demand.

To learn more…

https://blog.mozilla.org/l10n/2014/05/20/language-switching-in-fennec/

 

 

 

Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report: A web globalization persepective

It has become an annual ritual, Mary Meeker, a Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner, releases a data dump of key Internet stats and trends.

Last year, I wrote a  post on a few slides that jumped out at me.

This year, I feel compelled to do this again, after all, some of these slides are truly significant for those of us in the web/software globalization field.

Let’s begin with this slide:

China GDP

China is on a path to retake its massive share of global GDP.  Truly a staggering growth curve and the major reason why so many companies have prioritized China when expanding overseas. Of course, I do wonder if we’re going to see that red line flatten out a bit over the next few years.

Okay, now onto two of my favorite slides. This one is from 2013:

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 8.29.04 PM

“Made in the USA” web properties dominated the top 10 list last year.

Now let’s look at the top 10 for 2014:

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 8.29.22 PM

Now there are only 6 “Made in USA” websites on this list, replaced by Alibaba, Baidu, and Sohu. Yes, China again.

But now take a look at the blue vs. yellow portions of each bar — the “Made in USA” website now serve 86% non-US web users, up from 79% last year. If anyone asks you why web globalization is important, show him or her these two slides. Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Yahoo! are largely serving users based outside of the US.

Which is why I keep banging on this issue.

Now, onto the last slide that jumped out at me:

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 8.26.02 PM

This is a slide detailing the most popular markets for smartphones.

Look at the countries at the top of this list — Indonesia, Philippines, China, Brazil, Vietnam.

If your company is truly “mobile first” when it comes to web development, and you have global aspirations, I hope you have languages like Indonesian, Vietnamese, and Portuguese included in your core language list. The rise of mobile Internet penetration is resorting the list of “major” languages that companies must support.

Here’s the link to the full slide deck.

A global look at Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report

Mary Meeker, a Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner, recently provided another healthy dose of data and trends, along with a number of predictions.

But the media largely overlooked the web and software globalization implications of many of these slides.

So allow me to chime in on the slides that jumped out at me.

Let’s begin with this slide:

Mary Meeker intl usage

So the “Made in USA” websites are leading the world in overall visitors. But what doesn’t get noted is that the top-7 websites average 91 languages.

That’s right, 91 languages —  an average skewed heavily by Wikipedia.

Here are my language counts:

Website Languages
Wikipedia 285
Google 145
Facebook 75
Microsoft 48
Yahoo! 47
Apple 32
Amazon 10

These “Made in the USA” websites have been “Localized for the world.” And that’s a major reason they’re so successful outside the USA.

Next slide:

Mary Meeker sharing global trend

Americans aren’t global leaders in “sharing” — though we’ve been unintentionally sharing quite a lot of our data with the NSA (a rant for a future day).

Now, I’m not sure  how different cultures define sharing, which has to be a major caveat to this slide.

Nevertheless, the fact that different cultures share different types and quantities of information is a major globalization challenge.

This isn’t just a Facebook or Google+ issue, it should factor into the degree to which you wish to integrate social networks into your website (as well as your expectations regarding engagement). Privacy concerns could very well be one of the most significant issues of the next decade and beyond.

Next slide:

China mobile trend

This slide is pretty easy to grasp. But a question that often comes up when looking at mobile trends around the world is “How many of X country’s mobile users are using smartphones?”

See below for the answer:

Mary Meeker global smartphone growth

I love this slide because it helps clarify exactly how many mobile users may actually be able to browser your mobile website (or download your mobile app).

China is a significant smartphone market while Russia is not (yet).

So when thinking global about your mobile strategy, you need to also think about smartphones vs. feature phones (those that offer poor or nonexistent web browsing).

So those were the slides that jumped out me. Let me know if something jumped out at you.

Living in a post-PC world

tablet

PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones

The latest data from IDC show the sharpest decline in PC sales on record. From the release:

“Although the reduction in shipments was not a surprise, the magnitude of the contraction is both surprising and worrisome,” said David Daoud, IDC Research Director, Personal Computing. “The industry is going through a critical crossroads, and strategic choices will have to be made as to how to compete with the proliferation of alternative devices and remain relevant to the consumer.”

So is it safe to say we are not longer “entering” the post-PC era and are now living in it?

I would say so, with a caveat.

As global transformations go, this one has been highly uneven.

The fact is, there are many people in the US who don’t own a mobile phone or a tablet. For these folks, the post-PC era has not yet arrived.

And if you look outside the US, you might say we’ve been living in the post-PC era for quite some time. Or, to be more accurate, a non-PC era.

That is, many emerging markets leapfrogged PCs altogether (from the consumer’s perspective) and have been mobile-centric all along.

Case in point is this chart of PC vs. mobile Internet usage in India, courtesy of KPCB and StatCounter.

graph: desktop vs mobile internet in India

 

Judging by this chart you could argue that India has been “post-PC” since 2011.

Last year, I updated the Report Card methodology to factor in the globalization of mobile websites and mobile apps. This year, I’ve given additional weight to companies that treat mobile on par with PC in regards to globalization investment, which is a key factor why Hotels.com performed so well and why Google retained the top spot.

Needless to say, these are challenging times for web teams that must support a dizzying array of devices and screen sizes.

But this is also an exciting time. The Internet is, for millions of people, more within reach than ever before.