English Still the Lingua Franca of the Developer Web


In a recent Quartz.com article, “English is No Longer The Language of the Web,” author Ethan Zuckerman, director of the MIT Center for Civic Media, wrote, that the explosive growth in Internet use around the world has dramatically reduced the amount of content in English. It’s a fascinating article, and I recommend you read it to understand his perspective coming from this organization dedicated to giving a voice to people and communities worldwide.

However, I continue to caution that most developer content remains in English. Developers are used to reading technical content in English — and code itself is largely based on English words and English constructs. This highly technical audience does not mind non-localized articles, code samples and training. In fact, I say that they have come to expect it.

That said, as a best practice, we recommend that marketers not assume the same English centricity around marketing efforts. Where there is the opportunity to do localized and geotargeted advertising, along with localized landing pages, we find these yield good results. (This applies particularly well in countries where the local language is particularly important, like, say, France.) A localized marketing campaign is not essential, but it can be at least a valid approach to test. We’ve seen it most effective when promoting local events.

(If you’re interested in reading more from Ethan Zuckerman, check out his new book; the article itself is excerpted from it.)

Image via woodleywonderworks on Flickr; original courtesy NASA.

2 Responses to “English Still the Lingua Franca of the Developer Web”

  1. Thanks for writing about this – this is something that we as marketers to the dev world constantly debate about. Btw would be great to get more details especially numbers on the “good results” you point out. Which geographies would they be, probably an example or two of the campaigns itself, and how does having a campaign in one language and then the docs/product/support itself in English work out?

    I would be sure to share that article with my entire marketing circle 🙂

    • Hi Sanket. We’re working on some specific case studies and examples. While we don’t share specifics of any of our clients’ promotions, we can see some examples just by observing. For example, Microsoft often does local-language promotion, particularly from a local office, but the vast majority of its documentation and online support is in English. (For example, you can set your country on MSDN to something else and see what changes, like Finnish: http://msdn.microsoft.com/fi-fi/).

      I’ll note this and make sure I follow up on this in a later post. In the meantime, feel free to contact me and we can talk more 1:1. Thanks for reading!


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