Bulgaria (at long last) gets it own internationalized domain name (IDN)

bulgaria_idn

Five years ago, Bulgaria applied for an IDN but was denied by ICANN on the basis of “string similarity” with the country code of Brazil.

Here is the Bulgarian IDN side by side with Brazil’s ccTLD:  бг  br.

String similarity is a complex and controversial issue. But Bulgaria refused to take no for an answer and, five long years later, received approval.

I’ve updated our IDN map to include Bulgaria’s IDN (see detail above).

There are now 33 country/regions with IDNs.

Google launches its first Japanese IDN

I’ve long talked about the importance of non-Latin domain names, or IDNs (Internationalized Domain Names).

Google has gone live with one if its many IDNs: みんな.

I want to emphasize here that this is a top-level IDN — that is, the equivalent of a .com or .org.

This TLD, according to Google, stands for “everyone.”

So you could in effect register “someword.everyone,” which sounds a bit odd to me but I’m not Japanese.

And, frankly, the Japanese have not been blessed with much in the way of IDN options up to this point.

There is no Japanese-language country code, for instance. And few Japanese-based companies have been aggressive in promoting IDNs.

The new Google IDN website leads with a headline that translates to Let’s Start With.Everyone.

japanese IDN Google

Check out the video to get a good idea of how Google is positioning this domain against .com and .jp:

Despite the fancy website and video, I don’t believe Google is fully invested in the success of this domain.

If it were invested, the domain wouldn’t cost roughly $18 to register (by my rough calculations).

But that doesn’t mean Google can’t become invested in it at a later point.

The good news is that Google is moving ahead on commercializing IDNs.

I expect other tech companies to follow. 

Web globalization predictions for 2014

Globe

I’m optimistic about the year ahead.

I base this optimism in part on discussions I’ve had this year with dozens of marketing and web teams across about ten countries. While every company has its own unique worldview and challenges, a number of patterns have emerged. And I can tell you that there is a great deal of enthusiasm for web globalization — backed by C-level investments.

And this enthusiasm is not simply driven by China any longer — which is a healthy thing to see. Executives have a more realistic and sober view of China, and this has resulted in smarter and longer-term planning and investments. That’s not to say China won’t continue to dominate the headlines in 2014, as it most certainly will. But companies are now taking a closer look at countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, Turkey, India, and much of the Middle East.

As I look ahead, here are a few other trends I see emerging in the year ahead:

  • Machine translation (MT) goes mainstream. I’ll have much more to say about this in future (you can subscribe to updates on the right) but suffice it to say, MT is not just for customer support anymore. Companies are looking to use MT as a competitive differentiator, and we’re going to see more real-world examples on customer-facing websites. And customers around the world will love it. (And, no, I’m suggesting that human translators are in any danger of losing their jobs; quite the opposite!)
  • Responsive global websites also go mainstream. True, there are valid reasons for NOT embracing responsive websites, but for most companies, this is a clear path forward. It helps manage the chaos internally and frees up resources for mobile apps — which are becoming, for some of us, more important than the website itself.
  • Language pullback. What? Companies are going to drop languages? That’s right. Some that I’ve spoken to already have dropped a language or two, and others are considering following along. I’m never a fan of dropping languages for budgetary reasons, as this is almost always a shortsighted decision, but it’s a fact of life as companies learn to align their language strategies with their budgets. In the end, pullbacks are far from ideal but probably a sign that companies are no longer making blind assumptions that adding languages will automatically increased sales (this isn’t always the case). So even this trend, while minor, is ultimately going to be a positive one.
  • Privacy becomes a selling point. The “NSA-gate” scandal is only just beginning to be felt around the world. And the threat to American-based tech companies is very real. I will not be surprised if Google or Microsoft announces non-US hosted services (to bypass the NSA’s grip and attempt to rebuild trust with consumers). And there are already a number of startups emerging in various countries promising to keep user data safe from the “evil” American intelligence agencies. You know this is a serious issue when Apple and Google and Microsoft (and other tech companies) all agree on something.
  • A non-Latin gTLD awakens American companies. I’ve long written about why I think the Internet is still broken for non-English speakers. But now that ICANN is moving ahead with delegation of generic TLDs, I believe that one (or more) of these domains will act as a wake-up call to those companies that have long overlooked them — and I’m including a number of Silicon Valley software companies as well. I don’t want to predict what domain I think it will be (they are all available for you to see) — let me know if you have a candidate.
  • Apple drops flags from its global gateway. True, this is not my first prediction along these lines. But do I think 2014 will be the year. And this will make my life a bit easier because I won’t have to respond to any more “But Apple is using flags so why can’t we” questions.

So what do you think about the year ahead?

If you have any predictions to share, please let me know.