Twitter and Web Globalization

icann_es

ICANN recently launched its own Twitter feed. And since ICANN is a global organization, it launched more than one language feed — one in English and one in Spanish.

http://twitter.com/icann_en

http://twitter.com/icann_es

This is not the most scalable solution. And I’m not trying to pick on Twitter; the issue effects any multinational company or organization.

For instance, let’s say ICANN launches a Portuguese feed for Brazil. The address would have to read twitter.com/icann_pt_br. Similar challenges arise with French (Canada vs. France). And even the English and Spanish feeds are inherently going to exclude various flavors of the languages.

In addition, if I were wanting to be a pain, I could register icann_ru to beat ICANN to that address. And this highlights a larger emerging issue (and opportunity) as Twitter becomes more corporate and less personal — how to ensure that brand holders have access to their names. I always thought this would be a nice revenue source for Twitter, similar to the way that registries profit from domain registrations.

Ideally, Twitter would allow you to set up one address and then forward language-specific feeds to the subscriber based on their preference — sort of like how language negotiation works now with Web browsers. For instance, if I type in Google.com, the language I get aligns with the language preference of my browser.

But therein lies the challenge of Twitter — it doesn’t just send feeds to a browser. It sends the feeds to browsers and mobile devices and even Twitter apps, like Tweetie, which I use on occasion.

ICANN is now migrating its subscribers from icann_en to icann. No word yet on what will happen with icann_es.

What do you think Twitter should do to solve this issue?

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2 Responses to “Twitter and Web Globalization”

  1. Gareth Morgan October 22, 2009 at 3:54 pm #

    Twitter seems to have some good policies in place re. name squatting and the like (see http://help.twitter.com/forums/26257/entries), but looks like they haven’t addressed the multiple language feeds issue. I can see problems if users go with any willy-nilly syntax for naming their language offerings, rather than following the ISO 639-2 standard. But then how many people would know to name their Danish feed da_dk? And for branding or promoting that name to Danish customers, da_dk is not exactly memorable. Some education would help Twitter point its users on the right track, though whether they will follow standards is another matter (just like TLDs have been co-opted into brand and product names)

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