Standards and best practices for the Multilingual Web


Given the fundamental nature of the World Wide Web for communication in all walks of life, and as the share of English web pages decreases and that of languages spoken in the European Union and around the world increases, the importance of ensuring the multilingual viability of the World Wide Web is paramount.

In order to build on current internationalization of the Web and move it forward, it is necessary to raise awareness of existing best practices and standards related to the management of content on the multilingual Web, and look forward to what remains to be done. While doing so, it is important to bring together stakeholders from the various different disciplines that are involved in enabling a multilingual web, so as to ensure that synergies are exploited, to avoid needless duplication of work, and to ensure that initiatives are harmonised and interoperable.

W3C logoThe work of the MultilingualWeb initiative is being driven by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an organization of around 400 member organizations worldwide from research and industry, headed by the Web's inventor, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. It is supported with funding from the European Commission.

Associated projects

Following on from the thematic network project, which ran from 2010 to 2012, other projects have supported the aims and workshops associated with the MultilingualWeb brand. See the list of projects.

How to participate

You can follow the work on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, and there is a public list where you can receive announcements related to the initiative.

Upcoming workshops will be announced via these channels, and will be open for public participation.

Why standards matter

Standards and best practices enable interoperability of data, which in turn maximizes the potential for access to information, ensures longevity and usability of data, and improves the efficiency of processes for producing, localizing and disseminating information.

This project is particularly concerned with increasing interoperability and encouraging coherence across the multilingual Web. Standards provide targets that push applications to consider the requirements for supporting multilingual aspects of the Web for creation, display and management of content.

Important standardization work has already been done or is in progress to establish a base for multilingual deployment of the Web. Organizations such as the W3C and the IETF, for example, have worked on the use of Unicode in Web technologies, roll-out of Internationalized Domain Names, development of standardised language tags, etc., Nevertheless, people producing multilingual content for the Web feel that there remain a number of barriers to full multilingual roll-out of information and tools, and these need to be identified.

These barriers, in a range of areas, reduce efficiency or prevent the work of those attempting to provide a truly multilingual Web experience, affecting the ability to produce, localize, manage and share information and applications on the Web.