Internationalization? Localization? Whatever you call it, it means going beyond the boundaries of English, especially for Second Life New Registrations and Support. That was the focus topic of the Solution Provider Internationalization Forum held March 19th on SLDEV Island, featuring Keynote Speakers Danica Linden and Noelle Linden.
Explains Danica, “SL’s international positioning is a top initiative of Linden Lab. M Linden gets updates on our progress regularly. We presented to the Executive Committee last week, and we will do so again in a month.”
What IS internationalization and why should Second Life Entrepreneurs care? Virtual worlds strategist Sitearm Madonna explains, “Second Life has several distinguishing competitive advantages compared to all other virtual worlds platforms. One of these is that One Common Version is simultaneously available to all residents in all countries in the world. Even World of Warcraft cannot claim that.”
Internationalization simply means “you can talk to people in your Home Language as well as in English.” Danica Linden elaborates, “As promised, the viewer is now available in ten languages. It has been translated into German, French, Japanese, Korean, Brazilian Portuguese, Hungarian, Simplified Chinese and Polish. It is still partially translated into Spanish and Danish. Next version (1.23) will feature fully revamped Spanish, further improved Brazilian Portuguese, Simplified Chinese and Danish. We will also add the following languages: Italian, Dutch, Russian, and Ukrainian. We may be able to squeeze one more (fingers crossed).”
This is good news for anyone who’s hitched their entrepreneurial business wagon to the Second Life Virtual Worlds Platform star. It’s true that the English Language and the US Dollar are common media of exchange. It’s true that Second Life is the strongest virtual worlds platform going so far. But all entrepreneurs who depend on their virtual world business activities to ‘pay the rent’ need to spread their bets on more than one country in the current world economic situation.
Madonna adds, “Nobody knows where the strongest growth will occur. The fact that Linden Lab is making sure to speak to as many of the world’s countries in their Home Languages as possible has got to make us all feel better.”
A key enabler of SL Internationalization is the Community Translator Program. For example, Flemming Congrejo, who is helping with the Danish versions, notes, “I’ve spent approximately 60 hours so far. It’s important to have a uniform glossary and to coordinate with Linden Lab to plan deadlines and so forth. Three translators so far are preparing to be ready for Client Release 1.23”. Biancaluce Robbian is assisting with Italian and agrees; “I am on it around 6 to 8 hours a day.”
Robbian continues, “We are not only translating the client strings but also making the translation friendly for newcomers and already skilled people (like sim owners) in order to better their experience, always respecting original client structure and buttons.”
Internationalization is not without its challenges. Even as Danica and Noelle Linden pursue their multi-language websites, a separate faction of Linden Lab known as the ‘Trademark Police’ are shooting down entrepreneurs who dare to use the words “Second”, “Life” or the initials “SL” in their websites and brands. Many of these ‘violations’ did not become violations until Linden Lab announced its new trademark enforcement policies in 2008.
Remarks one owner who wishes to remain anonymous, “We’ve built our Second Life web domain name to a URL that receives over ten million hits in our home country. Now Linden Lab demands that we give it to them for free or else they will declare us ‘anathema’ [cursed] and not list us on their Showcases or allow us to contribute translations in our home language to assist with SL Internationalization.”
Linden Lab spokespersons decline to comment. If things turn out well, however, all will be resolved – especially because Linden Lab cannot afford more negative public relations stories.
Already “virtual worlds divorces” and “virtual worlds sex affairs” dominate the attention of real world media regarding Second Life. Madonna wonders, “Imagine the headlines, ‘LL picks on little guys’, especially after Microsoft and Amazon had to back off on their aggressive stances to defend trademark above all else. At some point in this new Digital Economy, you’ve got to realize you need to give a little to get a lot”.
And she adds, “It will all work out in the end. One of Linden Lab’s key board members and funders, Mitch Kapor, learned all about the ‘passing of the crown’ from one entity to another – that ‘lesson learned’ may help keep Linden Lab out of trouble – on this issue at least!” (Kapor at one point headed Lotus 123, the leading spreadsheet software product in the world, which outsold VisiCalc but was in turn overtaken by Excel).
For more information on Second Life Internationalization, refer to either the SL Blog (https://blogs.secondlife.com/community/features/blog/2009/03/06/bonjour-frsecondlifecom) or the SL Public Wiki (wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Internationalization_Forum_Transcript).