Definition of i18n


The ITS WG would like to include definitions of "internationalization" and "localization" in the document "Internationalization and Localization Markup Requirements"  (The group was surprised that the I18N Activity didn't already have something at least for "internationalization"). 

You may remember that some time ago the GEO WG did some work on defining i18n, l10n and g11n. The definition for l10n seemed to be ok, but there were some comments on the i18n definition, and a lot of different opinions on the g11n definition.

I suggest we adopt the l10n definition, and revisit the i18n definition and agreed on something that can be used as a working defintion for the Activity as a whole.  I suggest we abandon the attempt to define g11n, and leave people to work that out for themselves.

The short definitions used so far by the ITS-WG are close to the drafts worked out by the GEO-WG. So the ITS group is happy to start from GEO's definitions. I have however made some modifications based on comments made last October and by Yves Savourel. ITS and GEO therefore believe we already have a pretty useful definition at this point.

So, see below a proposed wording for "internationalization". Note that ITS may not need the last two paragraphs.

When commenting on this definition, please consider that we need to reach a consensus, and that will involve some compromise.  We have tried to review and synthesise a large number of definitions.  (Please do not simply say "I prefer this other definition over here".)

Note that this is a full version that would be useful for GEO "Getting Started" materials, but the ITS folks may well omit the last two paragraphs.




Definitions of internationalization vary, and some people refer to this concept as 'globalization' or using other terms.  We provide here a high-level working definition for use with W3C Internationalization Activity material.

Internationalization (often written as "i18n", where 18 is the number of letters between 'i' and 'n') is the design and development of a product, application or document content that is *enabled* for multinational, and possibly multilingual, deployment. 

Internationalization typically entails:

   * Providing support for features that may not be used until localization occurs (e.g., markup to support bidirectional text in DTDs). 

   * Providing support for the incorporation of predefined localization data and features derived from existing libraries or user preferences (e.g., date and time formats; keyboard usage).

   * Separating localizable elements from source code or content, such that localized alternatives can be loaded or selected based on the user's international preferences as needed.

The success of the i18n process will significantly affect the ease of the product's localization. Retrofitting a linguistically- and culturally-centered deliverable for a global market is obviously much more difficult and time-consuming than designing a deliverable 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.

Richard Ishida

contact info: 

W3C Internationalization: 

Publication blog:

Received on Monday, 19 September 2005 08:05:27 UTC