W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-i18n-its@w3.org > July to September 2005

Defining i18n, l10n...

From: Richard Ishida <ishida@w3.org>
Date: Wed, 20 Jul 2005 15:34:28 +0100
To: <public-i18n-its@w3.org>
Message-Id: <20050720143427.869D74F061@homer.w3.org>

This is the text of the faq GEO put together a while back defining these terms.  It needs to be discussed by all WGs in the i18n Activity:

Defining Localization, Internationalization & Globalization

on this page:  question - answer - further reading

How do you define localization, internationalization and globalization? How are these concepts related?

People define these concepts in slightly different ways. Here are some working definitions for Web internationalization that you might find useful.

Localization (often written as "L10N", where 10 is the number of letters between 'L' and 'N') is the adaptation of a product, application or document content to meet the language, cultural and other requirements of a specific target market (a "locale").

Often simplistically thought of as a synonym for translation of the user interface and documentation, localization is often a substantially more complex issue. It can entail customization of:

    * Keyboard usage
    * Numeric, date and time formats
    * Symbols, icons and colors
    * Text and graphics containing references to objects, actions or ideas which, in a given culture, may be subject to misinterpretation or viewed as insensitive.

Localization may even necessitate a comprehensive rethinking of logic, visual design, or presentation if the way of doing business (eg., accounting) or the accepted paradigm for learning (eg., focus on individual vs. group) in a given locale differs substantially from the originating culture.

Internationalization (often written as "I18N", where 18 is the number of letters between 'I' and 'N') is the design and development of a product that is enabled for multinational, and possibly multilingual, deployment. This process usually entails:

    * Excluding localizable elements from source code. This 'externalization' removes these items to separate files ("resources") that can be loaded or selected based on the user's international preferences as needed.
    * Providing support for features that may not be used until localization occurs (eg., bidi markup in DTDs).
    * Providing support for the incorporation of predefined localization data and features pulled from existing libraries (eg., date and time formats; keyboard usage).

The success of the i18n process will significantly affect the ease of the product's localization. Retrofitting a linguistically- and culturally-centered product for a global market is obviously much more difficult and time-consuming than designing a product with the intent of presenting it globally (think back to the Y2K effort and trying to "undo" two-character year fields that were built on the assumption of "19xx"). So ideally, internationalization occurs as a fundamental step in the design and development process, rather than as a possibly awkward and expensive afterthought.

Globalization describes the constantly expanding connectivity and interdependence of the world's markets and businesses.

With regard to the Web, globalization refers to the process of developing locale-specific Web sites and applications so that they are linguistically and functionally usable in one or more countries outside the nation of origin. Globalization, therefore, requires some degree of organizational integration of internationalization and localization strategies.
Putting the concepts together

The success of any globalization effort depends on having a Web site and/or application that is usable in the target market, i.e., effectively localized. Cost- and time-efficient localization, in turn, depends on timely and well-conceived internationalization.

As globalization of the marketplace continues at a rapid pace, the boundary separating localization and internationalization efforts may become increasingly blurred as designers become accustomed to enabling products for various locales and incorporate localized customizations into the initial product design and development.

Richard Ishida

contact info:

W3C Internationalization:

Publication blog:
Received on Wednesday, 20 July 2005 14:34:33 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.1 : Tuesday, 6 January 2015 20:43:05 UTC