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

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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:

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

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

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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:

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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.