Global by Design turns 1,000

In 2002, I launched this blog.

It was the first blog devoted to web globalization. In fact, I don’t believe there were any blogs devoted to translation either at that point in time. So I really wasn’t sure where this whole blog thing would lead me. Perhaps I’d lose interest along the way.

Evidently, I didn’t, for today marks blog post #1,000.

I’m not the most prolific blogger to be sure (and I relied on a handful of guest articles along the way).

But it has been an exciting journey. I took a few minutes to page through the archives and I’ve included below a number of posts that jumped out at me (NOTE: a lot of the news links are broken):

In 2002, China had fewer than 100 million Internet users. Machine translation was more of a punchline than a business tool. And at the time you could count on one hand the number of web sites that supported 40 or more languages. Today, there are more than 23 such web sites.

I also took a stroll through Google Analytics. Though I didn’t have analytics in place during the early years, here are the three most popular blogs since 2005:

  1. Starbucks CEO on Globalization: Don’t Go Changing
  2. Google and the Global Traveler
  3. Google vs. Baidu: A User Experience Analysis

Thanks for reading over the years — and all your input and comments!

The next Internet revolution will not be in English

This visual depicts about half of the currently approved internationalized domain names (IDNs), positioned over their respective regions.

Notice the wide range of scripts over India and the wide range of Arabic domains. I left off the Latin country code equivalents (in, cn, th, sa, etc.) to illustrate what the Internet is going to look like (at a very high level) in the years ahead.

This next revolution is a linguistically local revolution. In terms of local content, it is already happening. Right now, more than half of the content on the Internet is not in English. Ten years from now, the percentage of English content could easily drop below 25%.

But there are a few technical obstacles that have so far made the Internet not as user friendly as it should be for people in the regions highlighted above. They’ve been forced to enter Latin-based URLs to get to where they want to go. Their email addresses are also Latin-based. This will all change over the next two decades.

For those of us who are fluent only in Latin-based languages, this next wave of growth is going to be interesting, if not a bit challenging. In a Latin-based URL environment, you can still easily navigate to and around non-Latin web sites and brands. For example, if I want to find Baidu in China, I can enter www.baidu.cn. For Yandex in Russia, it’s yandex.ru.

But flash forward a few years and these Latin URLs (though they’ll still exist) may no longer function as the front doors into these markets.

Try Яндекс.рф. It currently redirects to Yandex.ru.

In a few years, I doubt this redirection will exist.

We’re getting close to a linguistically local Internet — from URL to email address. There are still significant technical obstacles to overcome. It will be exciting to see which companies take the lead in overcoming them — as these companies will be well positioned to be leaders in these emerging markets.

UPDATE: I’ve expanded on this topic in a recent article on IP Watch.

Amazon’s Kindle goes multilingual

The Kindle 3 was announced last evening.

The big news about the device is the price — starting at $139. You could argue that this is the first mass-market e-reader.

Of course, going truly mass market means going multilingual.

Last year, I asked where was Kindle’s support for non-Latin characters.

I was happy to find this morning, buried in the product description for the Kindle 3, this product blurb:

Support for New Characters
Kindle can now display Cyrillic (such as Russian), Japanese, Chinese (Traditional and Simplified), and Korean characters in addition to Latin and Greek scripts.

This is great to see. I guess asking for bidi support (Arabic and Hebrew) would have been a bit too much.

PS: I’ve got a book on the Kindle now — though only in plain ol’ Latin script. Still, this is great news for when my book is translated into Russian, Japanese, etc. I can dream…

iPhone app globalization: Ready for take-off

The WSJ has an article about iPhone developers taking their apps global.

It’s very early days, but it’s safe to say that localization vendors are drooling over the possibilities. Although many apps aren’t going to present much in the way of translation revenue, the localization engineering work can be quite substantial.

I’m currently aware of two vendors that have been doing a good job of specializing in this area:

Some app developers I’ve spoken with still question the degree to which they must localize their apps. After all, many report significant sales in markets around the word WITHOUT any localization investment on their part. So they naturally want to know what additional sales they’re going to get for their investment. There are many factors to consider. The ROI of a 99 cent app could be tough to achieve if you’ve got to completely internationalize your app. If your app is already internationalized, the ROI is much easier to achieve.

But China and Japan, as noted in the WSJ article, could be what pushes more and more developers into finally opening their checkbooks.

Here’s what one iPhone developer says:

“We definitely have plans to get all our games localized,” said Andrew Stein, PopCap’s director of mobile business development. “We may see more than half of our sales come from outside of the U.S.” PopCap’s $2.99 “Plants vs. Zombies” tower defense game is currently No. 1 in China, according to App Store rankings.

The article stresses that few apps are currently localized — and I will second that. In fact, the only apps that I’m aware of that support more than 20 languages are Apple’s own default apps. Outside of Apple, PayPal and Google apps appear to be the most global overall.

Here’s a rough tally of what I’ve seen so far:

  • PayPal Mobile: 15 languages
  • Google Mobile: 15 languages
  • Facebook Mobile: 7 languages
  • Monopoly: 6 languages

What am I missing here?