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The Jedi Master Speaks

Principle Number 6

The Net is International

em PortuguÍs nell'Italiano

The Net is international. This one is a bit of a sleeper. The reason is, that most people in the world still have a strong sense of geographic location. So, even if it is true that almost every nation of the world is wired, the interest of the individual is typically centered on his or her present location, and expands outwardly to county, state, nation and, last, the world.

The same should then be true of the site builder. As a friend at the Minneapolis Star/Tribune, our local newspaper, likes to remind me, a newspaper must, first and foremost cater to the needs and interests of those who will buy the newspaper. That is, those who live within a short distance of the physical publishing plant. So, the same standards that are applied to choosing content for the print version of the paper are transferred (the Internet jargon term is "shoveled") to the online version.

This decision is probably short sighted. Just as wine makers have discovered that they can skip the middle-men...and thus the costs of mediation...and sell directly to the public over the Internet, ALL sellers of ANYTHING must eventually take the fact that the Internet is world-spanning into account. Just as the offline version is selling newspapers and advertising to its local public, the online version is "selling" its content to the entire world, with a possibility of advertisers equally dispersed far and wide. To limit the vision of your site, or business, to those who are in some sense local immediately cuts out a vastly larger potential audience. For example, by creating content specifically for U.S. audiences, 95% of the world's population is excluded.

Similarly, by posting textual content only in English, at most one third of the world's people can be reached. Of course, if your ultimate goal is to reach those with disposable income, publishing in English will, by itself, reach a vast majority of the world's wealth. We have predicted elsewhere that the Internet would eventually make English the lingua franca of the planet Earth, but given the mechanics of the spread of language, "eventually" could be a very long time. So, there is going to be a huge market for translators in the near future, to reach all the non-English speaking people of the world with Internet content.

More to the point, automatic language translation systems...currently very poor tools for translating a site in one language to a grammatically correct and comprehensible version in another language...will have to evolve into much more robust products. There is simply no other way that the existing base of translators...even if every one of them were dedicated to translating Web sites...could keep up with the expansion of the current Internet content base. This issue will be discussed in more detail in future columns, when we discuss automated systems on the Internet.

There is an old saying that goes "Think globally, act locally." The Internet is rapidly transforming that saying to "Think globally, act globally." There are a lot of difficulties on the road to realizing this vision, but the Internet guarantees both that it MUST happen...and that it WILL happen.

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