Time for better International Awareness from companies providing International Service


In the early days of the Internet it was common for many websites to assume the audience was a) English speaking and b) North American. Given the importance of and target audience for the business conducted on the Internet in those days, it was a fair call.

But this is 2012, and the big Internet players need to realise that there is more to International communication than language.

The trigger for this rant is a request to complete a “Microsoft Satisfaction Survey” after I raised a case about a serial number I couldn’t find. The response was quick and helpful and the issue dealt with virtually overnight. So I though I’d do the survey – which starts by asking me to select a language:

Not every language in the Webosphere is there, but a pretty good range. I’ll give Language selection a Pass rating, although I am curious as to the differences between English and the other two English options – English (US) and English (UK) but none the less, I thought I’d go with the UK version.

It was the next question that I found offensive:

Why don’t International companies take into consideration the way different counties read dates? I can tell you categorically that in the English (UK) language, the last day of September is written as 30/9/2012 (or 30/09/2012) NOT as the survey shows? I thought perhaps there would be more cultural sensitivity to the Italians or French, so I also checked those languages:

…and found the same North American date format.

Why do big companies like Microsoft (and in particular Microsoft – don’t get me started on paper size settings and margin sizes in Microsoft Word) simply think it is good enough to assume that everyone implicitly wants to see the date written in a specifically localised format peculiar to North America? Why not use the International Standard that we all agree on?

I believe it is largely due to American parochialism – too many North Americans simply don’t know or don’t care that the rest of the world does things differently to North Americans! That might be a good enough excuse for a local pizza delivery company in Redmond, but it is NOT good enough for an International giant – in particular Microsoft.

In the end, I decided that I didn’t want to waste my time completing the survey, and had this rant instead!

Bottom Line: No company can claim to be truly an International company unless they use International Date formats!

Footnote: Dates written like 09/30/2012 are easy to spot, and don’t cause many problems, but as for me, I almost missed turning up for a booking from my American customer who asked me to start a job on 02/03/xxxx. I’d put it in may calendar for 2nd March, and it wasn’t until they requested a change to 02/10/xxxx that I realised that I’d recorded the wrong date.

Related: It’s a palindromic date day. How absurd.

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About RedNectar Chris Welsh

Professional IT Instructor. All things TCP/IP, Cisco or VoIP
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