Back in October 2013 the W3C announced that the Internationalization Tag Set (ITS) version 2.0 had become a W3C recommendation. The announcement stated:
The MultilingualWeb-LT Working Group has published a W3C Recommendation of Internationalization Tag Set (ITS) Version 2.0. ITS 2.0 provides a foundation for integrating automated processing of human language into core Web technologies. ITS 2.0 bears many commonalities with its predecessor, ITS 1.0, but provides additional concepts that are designed to foster the automated creation and processing of multilingual Web content. Work on application scenarios for ITS 2.0 and gathering of usage and implementation experience will now take place in the ITS Interest Group. Learn more about the Internationalization Activity.
Following the delivery of this standard, on 17 January 2014 the MultilingualWeb-LT Working Group was officially closed.
But what exactly does ITS 2.0 do, and is it relevant to the interests of institutional web managers, or research, teaching or administrative departments within institutions?
The ITS 2.0 specification provides an overview which seeks to explain the purpose of the standard but, as might be expected in a standards document, this is rather dry. There are several other resources which discuss ITS 2.0 including:
But the resource I thought was particularly interesting was the ITS 2.0 video channel. This contains a handful of videos about the ITS standard. One video in particular provides a brief introduction to ITS 2.0 and the advantages it can offer businesses involved in multilingual communication. This 8-minute long video can be viewed on YouTube but it is also embedded below:
The video, an animated cartoon, is interesting because of the informal approach it takes to explaining the standard. This, in my experience, is unusual. The approach may not be appreciated by everyone but since standards are widely perceived to be dull and boring, although still acknowledged as important. For me, providing a summary of the importance of standards in this way can help to reach out to new audiences who might otherwise fail to appreciate the role which standards may have.
If you are involved in providing web sites or content which may be of interest to an international audience it may be worth spending 8 minutes to view this video. If ITS 2.0 does appear to be of interest the next question will be what tools are available to create and process ITS 2.0 metadata? A page on ITS Implementations is available on the W3C web site but again this is rather dry and the tools seem to be rather specialist. However more mainstream support for ITS 2.0 is likely to be provided only if there is demand for it. So if you do have an interest in metadata standards which can support automated translations and you feel ITS 2.0 may be of use, make sure you ask your CMS vendor if they intend to support it.
Might this be of interest to University web managers? If you are a marketing person at the University of Bath and wish to see your marketing resources publicised to the French-speaking world but have limited resources for translating your resources, you probably wouldn’t want:
The University of Bath is based in a beautiful georgian city: Bath.
to be translated as:
L’université de bain est basé dans une belle ville géorgienne: bain.
And whilst Google translate actually does preserve the word “Bath” if it is given in capitals, this seems not to be the case in all circumstances. For example, the opening sentence on the Holburne Museum web site:
Welcome to Bath’s art museum for everyone.
Bienvenue au musée d’art de salle de bain pour tout le monde.
Perhaps marketing people in many organisations who would like to ensure that automated translation tools do not make such mistakes should be pestering their CMS vendors for ITS 2.0 support!
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