Reaching out with Drupal 6

I continue to be amazed about how many people believe that Drupal 6's localization (l10n) and internationalization (i18n) improvements aren't a killer feature.

Time to beat some sense into the nay-sayers: according to the CIA's factbook, only 4.84% of all the people in the world have English as one of their native languages. While it is believed that one out of every five people on earth knows some English (but not necessarily much), the fact remains that for more than 95% of the people in the world, English is not the main tool for communication, nor is English part of their cultural identity.

Admittedly, I knew that l10n and i18n improvements weren't going to be compelling for a large portion of our current install base, but I placed my bets, and wanted to see this happen nonetheless. That is exactly why I made Gábor a Drupal 6 branch maintainer.

I learned that every time we release a new version of Drupal, Drupal attracts more users. In other words, making a better product translates to a bigger install base. Every major Drupal release asserts this observation. It took me a couple years to realize that it was actually that simple a formula. Thus, I'm confident that the l10n and i18n improvements in Drupal 6 will convince many more people to use Drupal.

Also, Drupal isn't a panacea, but I'd like to believe that the l10n and i18n improvements in Drupal 6 could mark a small but important step to make a positive change in the lifes of folks in remote parts of the world. I'd expect that NGOs (like Greenpeace or Amnesty International) -- or even the NATO -- take interest in seeing Drupal's translation community flourish.

So if you want to learn more about the l10n and i18n improvements in Drupal 6, or how they compare to those of other Open Source CMSes, I'd encourage you to read Gábor's master thesis (PDF, 650KB, mirror) or to check out DevelopmentSeed's comparison chart.


Rafael Ferreir… (not verified):

Definitively this is a killer feature! Many people I know, here in Brazil, didn't take a look at Drupal due its (until now) limited options in i18n and l10n.

We are happy to see this feature being a top priority and we hope to help as soon as possible!

By the way, congratulations to the Drupal team for the excellent job!

Raphaël Bauduin (not verified):

This is a feature I'm really looking forward to, as I want to be able to propose stories in multiple languages. You'd be amazed to see how many IT professionals, although they're in an english driven space, prefer to get information in their native language. Sometimes it's not possible (eg for events I opt for english, especially in Belgium where you would have to choose between dutch and french), but for a website it's a great feature to have. (not verified):

This is a really important feature for spreading Drupal (all over the world).

The most important (IMHO) feature in this area is the multi-language support, and as I see, that will be one of the new features in Drupal 6.

Btw, I read Gábor's master thesis a few weeks ago, and I was quite impressed with that work. It isn't just about Drupal but about a lot more (although, I didn't expect nothing less from Gábor, specially for a master thesis).

Harry Slaughter (not verified):

I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who would not understand the importance of i18n if they were to think about it for a second.

I've always been impressed with some of the early design choices made that would have been easy to neglect, like fine grained permissions control and taxonomy.

While i18n will definitely broaden the potential user base of Drupal, I think an area that could do even more for broad acceptance is Drupal install profiles.

It is still "really hard" to install Drupal plus the modules and configuration options necessary to achieve a targeted set of functionality. I think this difficulty could be holding back adoption as much as weak i18n support.

I was quite surprised when the 'install profiles' didn't take off like a rocket. I envisioned all sorts of 'distros' for very common site configurations. But that just never seemed to happen, and if a user wants a common site configuration (say something like a photo sharing site), he'll likely need to hire a consultant or do a lot of research. If there were readily available distros for purposes like this, we'd probably catch the attention of even more potential users.

Benjamin Melançon (not verified):

Multilingual has a transcending importance in part because it will bring in more developers to help work on, well, everything.

That said, I agree that another big step can be taken toward easy site creation. I don't think we have yet a standard packaging mechanism to make installation profiles dowload once, fully install with two screens. (I'm not at all the first to suggest this.)

Ideally modules as well as installation profiles could download themselves and anything they require. Security concerns galore, but this would be a huge advance even limited to specific systems (Debian and Ubuntu apt-get, or work with - heaven fobid - Fantastico).

This would also make it more rewarding to develop modules in the Drupal way– depending on other modules where appropriate, and not reimplementing functionality.

Checkboxes or link listing offering downloading selected dependencies when downloading a module from would be a great start.

mattie (not verified):

i18n/l10n IS really important. I am very glad Drupal devs realized this. I have been very eager to use Drupal but have been waiting for i18n support. When Drupal 6 comes out, I can finally ditch my home-brew CMS! =)

greggles (not verified):

A bit later than the original post, but we had to wait for D6Betas to get stable to make the movie...In addition to the masters thesis and comparison charts there is now a screecast about i18n and l10n in Drupal6 available at

I agree, this should make Drupal a stronger candidate when an international organization is trying to choose on a CMS/CMF/platform.

Sacha Vorbeck (not verified):

only 4.84% of all the people in the world have English as one of their native languages

Of course you're right with your statement but the percentage of English speaking people among those who are able to use the internet is a completely different story.