A platform survey: interface language support by widely-used websites and mobile apps
A common theme weaves through our report: many apps and websites are not available in the thousands of languages people around the world speak everyday. As a consequence, every day billions of people around the world are affected by a kind of language exclusion. And yet among technology experts there is often little awareness about the pervasiveness of the problem. This in part reflects that all of us only see a tiny part of the picture: there currently are no publicly available surveys that can give us a basic impression of the scale of such language exclusion among the most widely used digital platforms. To address this knowledge gap we present a first platform survey that collects and analyses the interface languages — mainly in written text forms — supported by major digital platforms in an attempt to improve our collective understanding of online language inclusion and exclusion.
The language geography of Google Maps
As part of our broad review of the state of the internet’s languages we have looked at the state of interface language support on major platforms, asking: will people need to be able to speak a second language in order to use particular apps? However, the essays by our contributors also illustrate that interface language support is only part of the overall picture of language support, and that the actual content of major websites is often not available in key languages. We thus want to also look at the state of content coverage in major languages, by considering two platforms: Wikipedia and Google Maps.
The language geography of Wikipedia
In our report on the state of the internet’s languages we are reviewing interface language support by major platforms, and content support for major languages on the commercial mapping platform Google Maps. To complement these perspectives we now also want to look at the languages of Wikipedia, the largest collaborative effort in human history. Wikipedia is an early participant in the global expansion of online knowledge production: it began with a single English-language edition more than two decades ago, and now offers more than 300 language editions. Our platform survey has shown that this places it at the forefront of interface language support – Wikipedia’s user interface has been translated into more languages than any of the commercial platforms we looked at, including Google and Facebook.