NOTO, as in No Tofu

First of all, I love tofu.

But when you see it on a computer screen, it’s not so nice.

Like those two rows of “tofu-shaped” objects shown below that indicate a missing font:

tofu3

Tofu used to be a much bigger problem ten years ago, back when fonts are strictly aligned with different character sets and computers shipped with very limited font families. Today, computers and phones ship with system fonts that can natively display a significant number of languages.

Nevertheless, as websites support more and more languages, the need for fully world-ready fonts will only grow.

So it’s nice to see Google investing in creating open-source font faces to support the world’s languages.

This font family is called NOTO (as in no tofu).

google_noto

A package of all 100+ fonts weighs more than 470MB.

Instead, you might pick and choose which language/script you wish to support:

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-4-13-30-pm

This post is brought to you by the Multilingual Eye Chart.

 

What’s the most multilingual website?

I often point to Wikipedia as one of the most multilingual websites on the Internet.

Which is a major reason why Wikipedia finished in third place in the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card.

But Wikipedia is not the most multilingual website.

For that, I’d have to point toward the Jehovah’s Witnesses website.

As only partially illustrated by the screen grab below, the Jehovah’s Witnesses site supports nearly 600 languages, up from 400 in 2010.

jw_gateway.700

In comparison, Wikipedia supports only 271 languages.

Google supports only 125 languages.

(It feels odd to write “only” and “125 languages” in the same sentence)

I should be clear that I’m using a liberal definition of “supporting a language.” Most of the languages supported by the Jehovah’s website are represented by very little content — about a dozen or so web pages. This is also static content — the stuff that doesn’t require monthly or even annual updates. Nevertheless, it’s hard to deny that 600 languages is a notable achievement.

Here’s a sample page in Marathi:

jehova's witness global

 

I want to highlight the global gateway: The menu includes all available languages (displayed in the local languages). And, equally important, a global gateway icon is well positioned in the upper right corner of every web page, as shown below:

Jehovah's Witness global gateway

 

I prefer a globe icon as the one used here says “translation” more than global gateway.

So how does the JW.org website compare with other religion websites?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supports an impressive 115 languages, up from 40 a few years ago.

And the website has made great strides in improving its global gateway. Shown below is the language menu:

LDS global gateway

 

And here is the globe icon used to highlight the gateway:

lsd_gatewaydetail2

 

The Holy See supports a mere 10 languages, which, to its credit, is an increase from five years ago.

Holy See global gateway

 

I also visited the Christian Scientist website, which has made progress over the years–up to about 20 languages.

Christian Science home page

 

I reviewed a handful of other religion websites but found nothing beyond English and Spanish.

While I doubt anyone is going to come close to challenging Jehovah’s Witnesses soon in languages, I’d love to see more competition. So if I’ve overlooked any website, please let me know.

Chinese drawing even with English on global websites

Over the past decade Simplified Chinese has grown to become one of the most popular languages on global websites, second only to English.

According to the Web Globalization Report Card, which has long monitored languages supported by the world’s leading brands, Chinese was seen on only about six out of ten websites in 2006.

Today, it is seen on virtually every global website.

chinese language growth

That’s not to say languages such as French, German and Spanish aren’t important as well. In fact, French is right on par with Chinese, followed by German, Japanese, and Spanish.

Here are the top 10 languages overall:

top 10 languages

I should also note that Russian has seen a significant rise in usage over the past decade. In 2006, Russian was seen on only 42% of all global websites and now it’s up to 87%.

But there are language gaps still remaining. Arabic, for example, is spoken by more than 240 million people but only half of all global websites support it (so far).

And Hindi, with more than 260 million speakers, sees a paltry 4% of global website support — many companies cling to the hope that English will be sufficient for India. Perhaps for today but not for long. Consider that companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter have embraced Hindi, as well as other Indic languages, foreshadowing a time when other companies will be compelled to follow their lead.

To learn more, check out the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card.

To learn more, check out the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card.