For global brands, Russian is no longer a “top 10” language

Russian was once considered a “top 10” language — one that any company serious about global growth would support. But Putin’s horrific actions have put an end to that.

Over the past two years, global brands have made a hasty retreat from Russia, taking down their websites along the way. Websites that have dropped Russian include Hertz, Intel, Oracle and Starbucks, to name only a few.

Two years ago I first noted a significant drop in global websites supporting localized Russian websites. This year, that drop continues, though at a slower pace.

Meanwhile, a small but notable group of companies have added support for Ukrainian, resulting in the following multi-year pattern (from the 2024 Web Globalization Report Card):

The actions of Russia have given many multinationals a shock. The “go global at all costs” mindset has given way to “stay close to home.”

Which is one reason we saw the average number of languages supported by the major global brands drop for the first time ever in 2022.

However, I was pleased to see the average tick up to 34 languages this year, as companies realize that there are still opportunities around the world worth investing in. In fact, there are many opportunities out there.

Languages are a means to an end. When tracking languages as I do, I find they act as a bellwether of sorts. Yes, there are huge challenges facing the world right now. Going global is a risky endeavor and probably always will be. But, for some companies, not going global can be equally risky.

One side effect of Russia’s decline has been the increase of investment in other markets, such as Poland, Vietnam and Romania. In other words, Russia’s loss is another country’s gain.

My only wish for the year ahead is some semblance of peace.

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