Multilingual institutional portal : Mozilla Europe Case

Pascal Chevrel

Mozilla Europe


Feb. 2004
Creation of Mozilla Europe, 4 languages (DE, EN, FR, ES)
Dec. 2005
18 languages, among them regional languages like catalan and basque
Jun. 2006
21 languages on public server, 2 more waiting to be released (RU, BG)

Portal tasks and objectives

Achievements so far

European Firefox Market share is the highest in the world

How do we work ?


  • Backoffice : PHP/Mysql, SVN, TRAC, XHTML templates
    (We dropped Bugzilla and CVS)
  • Mail management : OTRS
  • News and PR : Dotclear blogging system module, wiki syntax
  • internal communication : mailing lists, IRC channel (#europe on, instant messaging

Human Resources

  • 2 full-time employees, one is a Mozilla code super-reviewer and module owner
  • 5 board members from different European countries (France, Belgium, germany, Poland)
  • ~35 "active" members, collaborators who translate and maintain their localized version
  • hundreds of members that join the association at Fosdem and other events
  • help from mozilla community members to organize events

Translation process

  • English version of the site is the reference version
  • One public server and one stage server
  • Translators work directly on simple XHTML UTF8-encoded files (text editor)
  • Key vocabulary and download links are in php includes (similar to .dtd files)
  • Pages published to stage with web form or via SVN
  • Publishing to WWW by a board member
  • All versions identical, except key areas like 'support' pages
  • Specific content changes are accepted only if they make sense

Problems we had to face

  1. We didn't expect that many languages and handling start pages outside Europe
  2. Some communities are disorganized or too small for quick changes
  3. 3 Radical changes of layout to follow redesigns
  4. Layout has to be flexible enough to adapt to very different languages
  5. File structure had to be reorganized to facilitate localized screenshots and images
  6. Handling of unsynced localization, what to show when 1.5 is not released in all languages
  7. How to answer thousands of emails in 21 languages ? -> a better contact page change divided messages per 5

A few lessons learnt over time

  • Big communities (French, German, Polish) and small languages with a strong opensource community (Finnish, Catalan, Czech...) work best
  • Some communities are less interested in having pages in their languages than others (scandinavian countries)
  • A couple of languages are a real problem (ex: no pt-PT firefox 1.5)
  • Make it simple for translators : CVS -> SVN, Bugzilla -> TRAC, Wiki
  • We use Wiki more and more for organisationnal purposes
  • Some things are done faster and better by one person than by many (localized screenshots, download links updates)
  • Clever CSS allowed us to change our design, hide content per language, adapt to hebrew, include start pages... without touching our backend

Things that still need improvement

  • We need to strenghten our team to update faster and more often
  • We need to visually improve the site without l10n impacts (screenshots, buttons...
  • We need to improve the publishing process (it was good for 4 languages only...)
    • publish a whole language at once
    • publish one specific page in x languages
    • push all stage to www at once
    • better versionning control with alerts if page X isn't updated in language Y
  • We need to improve and automate products version management on the site