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The top 25 global websites from the 2013 Web Globalization Report Card

Top 25 global websites of 2013

UPDATE: The 2017 Web Globalization Report Card is now available.

I’m pleased to announce the top-scoring websites from the 2013 Web Globalization Report Card. This is the ninth annual edition of the report and it’s always exciting to highlight those companies that have excelled in web globalization over the years.

Google is no stranger to the top spot, but this is largely because Google has not stood still. With the exception of navigation (a weak spot overall) Google continues to lead not only in the globalization of its web applications but its mobile apps. YouTube, for example, supports a 54-language mobile app. Few apps available today surpass 20 languages; most mobile apps support fewer than 10 languages.

Hotels.com has done remarkably well over the past two years and, in large part, due to its investment in mobile websites and apps. While web services companies like Amazon and Twitter certainly do a very good job with mobile, I find that travel services companies are just as innovative, if not more so.

Philips improved its ranking due to its improved global gateway. And Microsoft and HP also saw gains due to their website redesigns, which also included improved global gateways.

New to the Top 25 this year are Starbucks, Merck, and KPMG.

As a group, the top 25 websites support an average of 50 languages. And while this number is skewed highly by Wikipedia and Google, if we were to remove those websites the average would still be above 35 languages.

The companies on this list also demonstrate a high degree of global design consistency across most, if not all, localized websites. This degree of consistency allows them to focus their energies on content localization, which these companies also do well. And more than 20 of the companies support websites optimized for smartphones.

I’ll have more to say in the weeks ahead. You can download an excerpt here.

And if you have any questions at all, just ask.

 

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Don’t blame phishing on IDNs

I received a friendly email from Twitter awhile back.

It was fake.

I (stupidly) clicked on the link and was greeted with a login page that looked very much like Twitter’s real login page at the time.

Here’s a screen grab (note the bogus address):

I mention this now because I keep coming across stories about how internationalized domain names (IDNs) may be inherently dangerous. That if you start allowing all these additional characters in domain names you’re going to see many more instances of phishing (or IDN spoofing or homograph attacks).

I don’t dispute that these attacks are happening and will continue to happen.

I just want to make the simple point that phishing has been alive and well with plain old ASCII characters.

Maybe IDNs, as they become more popular, will lead to more problems. They probably will. But we’ve had our fair share of phishing attacks with Latin-based characters and I don’t ever read an article or blog post suggesting we eliminate these characters from the DNS.

Risk is, unfortunately, a sad fact of life on this crazy world wide web. And, yes, there are  IDN scenarios (like mixed scripts) in which IDNs could present the “bad guys” with exciting possibilities. So far, these scenarios have been limited reasonably well.

The key is to minimize risks while still allowing people around the world to interact in their native languages.

IDNs, warts and all, are important to the future of the Internet.

 

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Twitter’s multilingual error page

I’m not sure if Twitter has officially retired the “Fail Whale” landing page that we all grew accustomed to over the years.

But I recently came across a Twitter error page that did not include the whale, though did include a number of languages.

The page defaults to the user’s browser language, so I initially saw an error page in English.

Clicking on the language links in the footer quickly changes the language of the error page.

Shown here is German.

I’m assuming that English is the fallback language for instances in which the user’s browser is set to an unsupported languages (such as Swedish).

Over the past two years I’ve seen an increasing number of companies localize their error pages.

These details really matter.

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Social Aggregation Case Study: KPMG@Davos

In my last post I noted how Cisco has created the social aggregation page: Social@Cisco. This page is simply a global template that allows Cisco to plug in different local feeds for different markets.

I should also note that KPGM has created an event-specific page specifically for the World Economic Forum: KPMG@Davos.

The page blends together feeds and languages and it allows you to drill down by theme or keyword. What I most like is the real-time aggregation of all feeds.

Social aggregation is a hot topic across many of the companies I’ve spoken with lately and for good reason. By unlocking the content within these feeds and presenting them to users — ideally grouped by language and/or country — you create a much more engaging (and local) experience.

 

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Twitter launches translation crowdsourcing, again

Twitter went live with its newly updated translation center today. This is the second iteration of the platform; it first launched in October 2009, but was closed less than a year after for an overhaul.

I gave it a quick tour. A number of people were complaining (via Twitter naturally) about the slowness of the site. But it was fast enough on my end.

There are nine target languages as of today (six of which are already live). The three new languages are Indonesian, Russian, and Turkish. It’s fascinating to see Indonesian and Turkish as part of this first batch of languages — ahead of, say, Dutch or Swedish. Twitter is simply going where the users are — and Twitter is HUGE in Indonesia and Turkey.

Also, not surprisingly, Chinese is NOT on the list of target languages.

Overall, I liked the new design. The language translation interface is similar in many ways to Facebook’s UI. But what I found most intriguing (see above) as how the home page segments the text strings by platform (Android, Twitter.com, iPhone) as well as audience and content type (Business, Open Source, and Help).

If you’re wondering why Twitter.com text strings are handled differently than iPhone text strings, consider the platforms. On a PC, you have a good deal more real estate to work with. On a mobile device, you may only have a fraction of that real estate, which would require a much-shorter text string. So you could have the same message translated differently depending on the target device or application.

Finally, I thought I’d share the “opt in” text that Twitter presents potential volunteer translators. I like the fact that Twitter is up front with users in that they are giving away their time and text for free. Though I’m not sure how Twitter plans to enforce the confidentiality rule:

  • Since you’ll be helping out Twitter (thanks again!) we want to let you know our ground rules. Please read the full agreement below before continuing. Here are some of the things you can expect to see:
  • We may show you confidential, yet to be released products or features and you must be willing to keep those secret.
  • You’ll be volunteering to help out Twitter and will not be paid.
  • Twitter owns the rights to the translations you provide. You are giving them to us so that we can use them however we want. Among other things, Twitter plans to share the translations with the Twitter development community. We want to help make all of the other great Twitter apps, not just Twitter.com, available in your language.

Now that Twitter has its new platform, will it match the record set by Facebook awhile back — translating 70 languages in less than 18 months?

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The Top 25 Global Web Sites of 2011

I’m pleased to announce the publication of the 2011 Web Globalization Report Card. This year, we reviewed 250 web sites across 25 industries. The web sites represent nearly half of the Fortune 100 and nearly all of the Interbrand Global 100.

Out of these 250 sites, here are the top 25 overall:

Google, which has held the number one spot for years, was unseated by Facebook this year. Facebook’s recent innovations (multilingual social plugins, improved global gateway, multilingual user profiles) gave it the edge. (I’ve devoted a separate report to Facebook’s innovations.)

Companies like 3MCiscoPhilips, and NIVEA have become regular faces in the top 25. But there are some new faces as well. There are five companies new this year to the top 25: Volkswagen, Adobe, Shell, Skype, and DHL.

Although these 25 web sites represent a wide range of industries, they all share a high degree of global consistency and impressive support for languages. They average 58 languages — which is more than twice the average for all 250 sites reviewed.

The average number of languages supported by  all 250 web sites is 23, up from 22 last year. As the visual below illustrates, language growth over the years has been amazing. Seven years ago, I was thrilled to find a web site with more than 20 languages. Today, 20 languages is below average.

Language is just one element of web globalization, but it is the most visible element. When a company adds a language, it is making its global expansion plans known. If you want to know where your competitors are betting on growth, spend some time looking at their local web sites. More than twenty companies added four or more languages over the past 12 months.

Fast-growing languages on the Internet include Hungarian, Turkish, Indonesian, and Russian. Here is where Russian stands today — now found on nearly 8 of 10 web sites:

In the Report Card, languages account for 25% of a web site’s score. We also evaluate a web site’s depth and breadth of local content, the effectiveness of the global gateway, and overall global consistency. Beginning in 2010, we have also begun tracking how companies promote local social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter around the world. Our goal was not only to highlight the leaders in language but to identify those web sites and services that were globally “well rounded” as well as innovative.

The top 25 web sites are not perfect. The Report Card details many ways these sites could be improved (including Facebook and Google). That said, the executives who manage these web sites and services deserve a great deal of credit. As someone who has worked as both a consultant and an employee at companies such as these, I know how challenging it can be to get the funding to add languages and staff and to educate various teams on the many complexities of web globalization. While it may be the company names that appear on the top 25 list, it is the hundreds of passionate and bright people who got them there.

Congratulations!

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LAN Airlines and its local Twitter feed

LAN Airlines is trying to expand its US presence. I’ve flown the airline once — back when it was known as LAN Chile.

I received an email from them last week in which they promoted their new Twitter page:

What I found interesting is they use of “USA” in the Twitter address.

LAN had been using @LANAirlinesUS and gave it up in favor of  @LANAirlinesUSA.

The naming of Twitter feeds is highly inconsistent across countries, due to a variety of reasons. For starters, you only have so many characters available to work with — which means, say,  “Australia” isn’t going to work in full for most companies. Then there are the squatters who beat you to your name of choice. Finally, it’s hard to change a name once it gets a fair number of followers. Since so many local offices have created Twitter feeds on their own, many corporate communications people are discovering that consistency in naming across countries in next to impossible.

If you’re interested in how companies have named their Twitter feeds across markets, check out Twittering in Tongues.

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Twittering in Tongues: How companies are going global with Twitter

Over the past six months, Twitter went from mostly serving people based inside the US to mostly serving people based outside of the US.

Source: Twitter.com

Today, 60% of Twitter’s 105 million registered users are based outside of the United States.

And half of all tweets are in a language other than English.

This is a remarkable trend, particularly since Twitter has only been localized into five languages so far.

A few months ago, I set out to better understand how large, multinational companies are using Twitter to reach users around the world.

I studied more than 225 companies across 21 industry verticals (representing 80% of the Interbrand 100). And I interviewed a number of people who manage Twitter feeds in different markets.

This work resulted in the report Twittering in Tongues. This report is a first stab at a phenomenon that is very much in its early days, so it’s hard to draw any sweeping conclusions. But there are some clearly emerging trends, which I discuss. I also highlight a number of Twitter’s inherent international limitations and provide some recommendations for companies considering localized Twitter feeds.

Here are a few findings/recommendations from the report:

  • Most companies have yet to launch international Twitter feeds. Only one-third of the 225 companies studied support one or more Twitter feeds outside of their domestic markets. What makes this ratio interesting is that every one of 225 companies studied supports two or more localized web sites. So these are all companies that do business in three or more countries. A number of companies that support more than 20 local web sites still only use Twitter for their domestic markets.
  • Sony leads the pack with support for 20 international Twitter feeds, mostly through its Sony Music division. Microsoft, Cisco Systems, and PricewaterhouseCoopers are also out in front with support for 10 or more country specific Twitter feeds. CAVEAT: Counting feeds is a tricky business. Not all corporate feeds are actively managed (which I did not count) and not all local feeds are easy to find.
  • Brazil rules. Brazil is by far the most popular Twitter market outside of the US. Nearly half of the companies that support one or more international feeds have targeted Brazil. Not surprisingly, Brazilian Portuguese is the second most popular language used on Twitter.
  • Local Twitter success depends on local web site promotion. It’s also no surprise that the local feeds with some of the highest numbers of followers also had high visibility on their local web sites. Companies such as Dell and Samsung lead in this respect. Below is a screen shot from Samsung’s Brazil home page; Twitter gets prime real estate.
  • Twitter is local by design. Based on my interviews, most of the in-country Twitter feeds have been launched without any central approval process or even awareness. This also applies to local Facebook and YouTube pages. The evolution is local Twitter feeds is similar to the evolution of local web sites in the 1990s. Back then, local offices often created their own sites, with their own designs and platforms. Over the years, the central offices reined in these disparate sites — sometimes going too far and dampening local enthusiasm. The key challenge I see executies facing now is balancing local control with global consistency. While consistency is important, it should not come at the expense of local enthusiasm and innovation. In the end, the success of local Twitter feeds depends on the local offices.

For more information: