Most internet services are in English. But according to research people prefer services in their native language, and the majority of people in the world are not native English speakers.
There are also a lot of success stories, when a company has taken e.g. an American concept and launched a localized version of it to create a popular local service. The Samwer brothers from Germany are particularly famous in this concept. Localization is a challenge and opportunities for companies that offer international Internet and mobile services.
Localization might be one of the biggest under-utilized business opportunities, when the Internet and mobile services become part of our life everywhere. And it is also an opportunity for telcos and hosting providers with localization partners.
Localization doesn’t only refer to using a local language. It can also mean modifications to the user interface, processes and partner services. However, languages are an important part of the localization. There are several machine translation services, such as Google Translate, which is also included in the browser Chrome. These typically help users or readers to understand the content to a certain point, but they are not adequate to offer a real local service.
A local language version doesn’t only require translation; actually the translation can only be a small part of the work. The whole service and software must be designed so that it supports several languages.
A significant part of the work is software updates and maintenance. If you implement new features or make changes for an app or service, you must take care of all language versions and keep them synchronized. It is also important to find the right tools and processes to make this work, e.g. it doesn’t make sense that all language versions, text updates and typo corrections require time from software engineers and a new software release, when this work can be isolated with dedicated processes for its own professionals in separate databases and tools.
Nowadays even a small company can offer an internet service or mobile app globally. Localization is often a barrier to attract business globally. That’s why we also see new models to make localization easier.