June 3, 2004
You can't hide on the Internet, particularly when it comes to Web globalization. I was passing through the Alienware Web site the other day -- because they have the coolest-looking desktops on the market -- and I couldn't help but notice this in the upper right-hand corner:
Ah yes, the beginnings of a global gateway. I followed the links, and it turns out they've got a Canada Web site live and a Mexico site on the way. The Canada site is missing French content -- a big no-no. And I would advise that they do without the flags on the gateway.
I always enjoy watching companies as they ease their way into Web globalization. It will be interesting to see what happens after the Mexico site goes live. I bet they discover that many Spanish-speaking Americans begin using the Mexico site to get more information on products.
I also wonder how well their brand and product names will travel. Their computers have names like "Roswell" and "Area 51." Perhaps these have universal meaning for the alien followers of the world. And I believe some UFOs were spotted recently in Mexico -- sounds like nice timing!
And now I will leave you with one of their pricey but cool computers:
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June 1, 2004
Five years ago, I began writing about the challenges of creating a truly multilingual domain name system (DNS). Currently, a URL may contain only Latin characters, hardly a user-friendly system for the majority of the world's population.
There have been some workarounds proposed over the past few years, but the only long-term solution is to overhaul the DNS so that it supports Unicode. This solution sounds nice but opens the door to a host of new and creative security nightmares.
This recent Reuters article touches on these issues. Here is an excerpt:
Fattal, chairman of the Multilingual Internet Names Consortium (MINC), says he is determined to change that and turn the Internet into a truly global instrument for communication.
"There are two ways to create this multilingual internet. Either we teach English to over 4.5 billion non-English speaking people distributed across the world, or we incorporate the world's various languages and language variations into the Internet's infrastructure," he told Reuters in Cairo.
Elevating Arabic to equal status with English could revolutionise Internet usage in the Middle East and lead to an explosion in the number of sites offering Arabic content.
"What Khaled says is true, because if you only speak Arabic, why would you be interested in the Internet?" said Paul Verhoef, a vice president at the International Corporation for Internet Names and Numbers (ICANN), which runs the .com register.
I do believe that Unicode will become the default character set of the DNS, but this article is correct; it's going to take some time.
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According to this BBC article, the European Union translation backlog is becoming a serious problem. EU beaurocrats have been told to keep documents to fewer than 15 pages to help translators get caught up. According to the article:
Prior to EU enlargement on 1 May, there was a backlog of 6,000 pages still awaiting translation -- but with enlargement this problem has increased tenfold.
With Estonian, Czech, Hungarian, Latvian, Maltese, Lithuanian, Polish, Slovak and Slovene now on the list of official EU languages there are an estimated 60,000 pages to plough through
Will English become the lingua franca of the EU? More than a few members are pushing for such a change, but I wouldn't hold my breath. The European Union is a great experiment in pan-cultural unity; expecting countries to compromise on language would be asking a bit too much at this stage. And, as the French are quick to point out, why should the lingua franca of the EU be English?
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