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The top 25 websites from the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card

I’m excited to announce the publication of The 2018 Web Globalization Report Card. This is the most ambitious report I’ve written so far and it sheds light on a number of new and established best practices in website globalization.

First, here are the top-scoring websites from the report:

For regular readers of this blog, you’ll notice that Google was unseated this year by Wikipedia. Wikipedia, with support for an amazing 298 languages, made a positive improvement to global navigation over the past year that pushed it into the top spot. And Wikipedia, due to the fact that it is completely user-supported, indicates that there is great demand for languages on the Internet — and very few companies have yet responded in kind.

Google could still stand to improve in global navigation, as could Facebook.

Other highlights from the top 25 list include:

  • Consumer goods companies such as Pampers and Nestlé are a positive sign that non-tech companies are making positive strides in improving their website globalization skills.
  • As a group, the top 25 websites support an average of more than 80 languages (up from 54 last year); but note that we added a few websites that made a big impact on that average.
  • Luxury brands such as Gucci and Ralph Lauren continue to lag in web globalization — from poor support for languages to inadequate localization.
  • The average number of languages supported by all 150 global brands is now 32.

The data underlying the Report Card is based on studying the leading global brands and world’s largest companies — 150 companies across more than 20 industry sectors. I began tracking many of the companies included in this report more than a decade ago and am happy to share insights into what works and what doesn’t.  

I’ll have much more to share in the weeks and months ahead. If you have any questions about the report, please let me know.

Congratulations to the top 25 companies and to the people within these companies who have long championed web globalization.

The 2018 Web Globalization Report Card

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Think Outside the Country is coming to Japan

I’m pleased to announce that Born Digital (in collaboration with Mitsue-Links) is publishing the Japanese edition of Think Outside the Country.

The book will be available December 23rd and I look forward to promoting it next year!

If you’re a member of the media and would like a review copy, please let me know.

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Languages are a means to an end, a journey as well as a destination

I recently wrote an op-ed for the Seattle Times about the importance and value of thinking globally. Here’s an excerpt:

Consider Starbucks. In 2003, this aspiring global company supported a mere three languages. Today, it supports 25, which may sound like a lot until you compare it to many other global brands. Among the leading global brands, the average number of languages supported is 31, a new high based on my years of research. And then there are those companies that left 30 languages behind years ago — like Facebook, which supports more than 90 languages, and Google, which supports more than a hundred.

This degree of language growth isn’t just a tech phenomenon. John Deere supports 31 languages, Ford supports 42, and even Jack Daniels is fluent in 22 languages.

So while the U.S. leaders are speaking the rhetoric of isolationism, American companies of all sizes are speaking a different language — in fact, a lot of languages.

And here’s the full article.

 

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When will more global websites support Arabic?

I read a brief report on digital Arabic content produced by the Wamda Research Lab, in partnership with Google and Taghreedat.

A few data points jumped out at me, such as:

By 2017 over half of the Arab world will have access to the Internet, an increase from the 32% that were online in 2012. Estimates suggest that the region has been home to the world’s largest increase in Internet usage since 2001, experiencing 600% growth in the number of users over this time period.

And then there’s this:

arabic_web_users

With roughly 300 million native speakers, Arabic is one of the world’s leading languages.

Yet too many global companies do a poor (to nonexistent) job of supporting this language.

According to the 2015 Web Globalization Report Card just 49% of the websites studied support Arabic. Compare this to 95% for Chinese (Simplified) and German,  92% for Brazilian Portuguese and 89% for Russian (a language with 155 million native speakers).

So what we have here is an acute deficit in Arabic content on the Internet and this has, for years, led to a negative cycle for consumers of this content.

Arabic speakers have been conditioned to assume that most global companies are not invested in their language.

Why, for instance, is the Apple Egypt home page still in English?

apple_egypt

The irony here is that Apple’s operating systems do support Arabic.

Arabic translation tends to be more expensive than many other languages. The bidirectional properties of the languages also presents a number of technical challenges (though very surmountable). These factors have led many executives to believe that the ROI of supporting Arabic just isn’t there.

Looking at the data I’d say the time is now to take a second look at supporting this language.

 

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A map of the multilingual Internet

With Mongolia gaining approval for its new internationalized domain name (IDN), there are now 30 countries and territories with non-Latin top-level domains.

I’ve updated my map and, as you can see below, IDN coverage is significant:

 

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ICANN strikes domain name gold (updated)

The registration period for generic top-level domains (gTLDs), names like .google and .nyc, has been open for a short while and it appears that ICANN has won the lottery.

According to Domain Incite, ICANN has received 1,900 registrations so far, well above what they projected. ICANN is expected to provide details on June 13th — hopefully a full list of registrants. We know, for example, that Google has applied for at least three domains: .google, .youtube, and .lol (don’t ask me why).

If we assume $185,000 per registration (the application fee), ICANN is looking at more than $300 million in revenues.

Not bad.

It’s worth noting that this is not some overnight success story; ICANN began heading in this direction four years ago. And it has met resistance pretty much every step of the way.

But now we have entered the next phase of gTLDs.

Here’s an interesting piece on questions raised by generic TLDs. I agree that gTLDs could transform the Internet as we know it. That is, if every major brand has its own domain we could see a clear bifurcation between the domain name “haves” and “have nots.” But I emphasize could because who knows if these big brands will make use of these custom domains.

UPDATE: Here’s the list of all 1,930 domains. Registrants include major brands such as Apple, Microsoft, Bing, Lancome, Kia, Abbott, Hyatt, JPMorgan, NBA, NFL UPS, Walmart — and more than 100 IDNs! 

Speaking of IDNs, here are handy list of IDNs that .com and .net are going to use as they go global.

And here’s a brief WSJ summary.

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Windows 8 primed to win tablet war — at least in languages

When it comes to tablets, Apple is far and away the leader.

But later this year Microsoft is expected to unveil its Windows 8 tablet and, in doing so, will quickly take the lead.

In languages, that is.

That’s right. Microsoft recently announced that Windows 8 will support a whopping 105 languages (and I’m assuming this includes the new Metro interface).

This is impressive, particularly when you compare it against Apple iOS, which supports a paltry 34 languages. (Android 4.0 is at 57 languages.)

We are getting into slightly murky waters when we compare Windows 8 with iOS, because Windows 8 is for both PCs and mobile devices; Apple’s iOS is strictly for phones and tablets. But since phones and tablets are where the growth is globally, Microsoft’s investment in languages is smart and Apple’s relative frugality is short-sighted.

I’ll be curious to see how Apple responds with its updated OS later this year. And not just with its OS.

Can we finally see an Apple website in, say, Arabic or Hebrew?

I think it’s time.