Global gateway fail: App Annie

By John Yunker,

I want to focus on App Annie because it appears the company is planning to significantly expand its global reach — and therefore needs a gateway suited to task.

Currently, App Annie supports five languages.

But you might not know this because the gateway is buried in the footer, as shown here:


To App Annie’s credit, the website uses language detection, so users with web browsers that match one of these five languages will see the website in that language. But let’s suppose they would rather select a different language? They then have some scrolling to do.

When using language detection or geolocation you are in effect taking power out of your web user’s hands.

You may be guessing correctly in the end but you have to give the user easy access to control over his or her language selection. That’s why it’s vital that the visual global gateway be located in the header.

To learn more, check out The Art of the Global Gateway.


The humans behind machine translation

By John Yunker,

Google Translate is the world’s most popular machine translation tool.

And, despite predictions by many experts in the translation industry, the quality of Google Translate has improved nicely over the past decade. Not so good that professional translators are in any danger of losing work, but good enough that many of these translators will use Google Translate to do a first pass on their translation jobs.

But even the best machine translation software can only go so far on its own. Eventually humans need to assist.

Google has historically been averse to any solution that required lots and lots of in-person human input — unless these humans could interact virtually with the software.

Behind Google’s machine translation software are humans.

In the early days of Google Translate, there were very few humans involved. The feature that identified languages based on a small snippet of text was in fact developed by one employee as his 20% project.

Google Translate is a statistical machine translation engine, which means it relies on algorithms that digest millions of translated language pairs. These algorithms, over time, have greatly improved the quality of Google Translate.

But algorithms can only take machine translation so far.

Eventually humans must give these algorithms a little help.

Google Translate Community

So it’s worth mentioning that Google relies on “translate-a-thons”  to recruit people to help improve the quality.

According to Google, more than 100 of these events have been held resulting in addtion of more than 10 million words:

It’s made a huge difference. The quality of Bengali translations are now twice as good as they were before human review. While in Thailand, Google Translate learned more Thai in seven days with the help of volunteers than in all of 2014.

Of course, Google has long relied on a virtual community of users to help improve translation and search results. But actual in-person events is a relatively new level of outreach for the company — and I’m glad to see it.

This type of outreach will keep Google Translate on the forefront in the MT race.

If you want to get involved, join Google’s Translate Community.

Who needs BRIC when you have the Blue Banana?

By John Yunker,

Perhaps it’s human nature (or perhaps just savvy marketing) to think up new and unique ways of organizing our world.

BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) is one popular grouping.

And did you know about MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey)?

Or MIST (Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey)?

And if you think those groupings sound odd, consider CIVETS (Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey, South Africa).

But I’m partial to the Blue Banana, shown below (excerpted from the TNT website):


According to Wikipedia, “the Blue Banana is a discontinuous corridor of urbanization in Western Europe, with a population of around 111 million.”

And if a Blue Banana isn’t strange enough, how about a Golden Banana?


Translators Without Borders and the Wikipedia 100-language project

By John Yunker,

Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 9.41.38 AM

Translators Without Borders is an amazing organization of volunteer translators using their skills to make the world a better place.

One project worth noting is an ambitious effort to translate valuable Wikipedia articles into 100 languages:

The 100 x 100 Wikipedia Project envisions the translation of the 100 most widely read Wikipedia articles on health issues into 100 languages. The project is well under way – dozens of articles have been translated into a still growing number of languages.

As I’ve noted in the Report Card, even most of the world’s largest companies fail to support more than 30 languages — only a very small number support more than 40 languages. Sadly, too many executives still have the mindset that they can do business in certain markets without translating for those markets. And I mention this because the world’s largest brands function as language benchmarks for so many other companies. Currently, the benchmark for what constitutes a “global” website remains stubbornly low.

But Wikipedia is more in touch with the world’s Internet users because it reflects input from the world’s Internet users.

Which is why Wikipedia is the world’s language leader, with support for more than 270 languages.

But the content supported by these 270+ is unevenly distributed, meaning many articles do not get the translation attention they deserve.

Which is why the 100-language project is so valuable.

You can track progress and participate here.

Will FedEx plus TNT equal an improved global website?

By John Yunker,

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 5.58.28 PM

As FedEx closes its acquisition of TNT Express, I see an opportunity for FedEx to improve its global website.

In the recent Web Globalization Report Card, among delivery services companies, FedEx finished dead last.

TNT supports 37 languages, compared with the relatively paltry 27 languages that FedEx supports.

Hopefully FedEx will embrace a new language baseline of 37 (or more) languages.

DHL, however, still leads the delivery services category.

But I should stress that none of the companies in this category do a particularly good job of website globalization.

There is much room for improvement among all companies — which means this is a great time for a new leader to emerge.

FedEx has been clear that this acquisition is about not only about European growth but global growth. An improved global website (and mobile apps) could be the deciding factor.

Do your web developers know about Globalize?

By John Yunker,

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 4.55.59 PM

Today, the JQuery Foundation has announced availability of Globalize 1.0:

Globalize provides developers with always up-to-date global number formatting and parsing, date and time formatting and parsing, currency formatting, and message formatting. Based on the Unicode Consortium standards and specifications, Globalize uses the Common Locale Data Repository (CLDR), the most extensive and widely-used standard repository of locale data. With Globalize, all developers can quickly reach global markets with confidence that their apps and sites will always have the most accurate and up-to-date locale data available.

I published a book a few years back on an early iteration of Globalize. I’m excited to see  jQuery moving forward with Globalize, as it has improved not only the lives of anyone who must internationalize and localize web apps and websites, but also the experience of web users around the world. Because users benefit from seeing dates and times and currencies displayed as they expect them to be displayed for their respective cultures — and displayed consistently across web applications.

If your developers aren’t aware of Globalize, point them to it today.