Major Internationalization Improvements Planned for WordPress 4.0

photo credit: Sarah Elizabeth Altendorf - cc
photo credit: Sarah Elizabeth Altendorfcc

Many native English speakers take WordPress’ famous 5-minute installation process for granted. Have you every wondered how much of a hurdle it might be to try to install the software when English is not your first language?

Andrew Nacin recently published an extensive plan to tackle this problem and a host of others with internationalization improvements for WordPress 4.0. He outlined five major goals for the next release. The first, and perhaps one of the most important, is that you should be able to choose a language before embarking on installation.

Choosing a Language Before Installing WordPress

Given that many applications allow you to select the language before installing, this improvement to WordPress seems like it might be a trivial thing to accomplish. However, Nacin identified some unique technical challenges, depending on how the user is attempting to install WordPress:

If the user’s first step is setup-config.php, we don’t actually have WordPress fully loaded at this point, which makes actually installing a language pack more difficult. The install step has WordPress loaded in full, just without database tables. We should look into making setup-config.php load “all” of WordPress to make these environments easier to code.

He proposed two solutions, which include downloading the language files as soon as the user selects a language or bundling barebones language files for use on the installation screen. Both create their own set of new problems to solve, especially given that users install WordPress using several different methods.

The next step after accomplishing this goal would be to make it possible for users to choose/switch a language from the general settings screen. This involves fetching the available languages from WordPress.org so that a new pack can be downloaded after it is selected.

Searching the Admin for Plugins and Themes Available in Your Language

Another one of the major goals Nacin identified is to allow users to search via the admin for extensions available in their selected language. Of course, this would also include the ability to expand the search to include extensions from any available language. All of this would require having “localized” plugin and theme directories on the translated WordPress.org sites.

The ability to search extensions by language will also rely on the final two goals, which are interdependent:

  • All localized packages should be able to be automatically generated and made available immediately as part of the core release process.
  • Localized packages should only be used for initial downloads from WordPress.org. Instead, language packs should be transparently used for updates.

Nacin outlined a list of WordPress.org/API work and core work that will need to be done in order to accomplish these goals. It’s a major undertaking and will require a group of highly motivated contributors to make this happen for 4.0.

Hopefully these changes will serve to reduce the burden of trying to install and use WordPress in different languages. The software already powers a fairly large chunk of the web (22%), but if its rapid growth is to continue, contributors will need to keep internationalization as a top priority. Andrew Nacin’s outline is right on track for improving the experience of using WordPress in your own language. If you want to contribute, make sure to read the full outline for more in-depth details on WordPress’ internationalization goals for 4.0.

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