Apple’s i18n Bug Makes the News

Apple’s iOS Character Bug and Internationalization (i18n)

It’s rare that an i18n issue makes the news. In fact, in a meeting a few years ago with an i18n and localization team, one member lamented just that. “Nobody gets fired for a character corruption issue. That just doesn’t make the news.” The context was that security issues get the attention and with that gobs of budget. There is nothing like the fear of a breach, lawsuits and public humiliation coming with an i18n or localization (L10n) shortcoming. However the problems can still be insidious.

Let’s look at Apple’s iOS bug. It actually did make news, but could have easily been missed in this week’s tumultuous news cycle.

As reported: When a user inserts a particular character from the Telugu language (India) on iOS or MacOS, the system crashes hard. This can even take place from within applications running on those systems. The character looks like this:

Apple Bug

i18n and L10n Matter

Going back to our security bug comparison, let’s consider carrots and sticks. Security is a stick. Don’t handle it right and you get beaten. But if you perform i18n and L10n well, and you have a good product, you’re going to see a different kind of reward. This is absolutely no different than the benefits of paying attention to usability in your user interface. Software that works and behaves elegantly, has a competitive advantage with applications that may not. So it is for products that work well in any language and locale preference. Yes, there are some markets that are more US English tolerant, but they will still need all kinds of other locale formatting for a multitude of data like dates, numbers and addresses.

Want to grow? Go where the people are. Look at Facebook, with 87% of its users outside North America (including US, Mexico and Canada). Netflix has been growing consistently based on expanding their presence worldwide. Even consider technical products, whose managers perhaps had the excuse that system administrators have to learn English anyway. Have a listen to our webinar recording with Anna Schlegel, who leads Globalization efforts at NetApp. They place great strategic importance to their i18n and L10n efforts as a critical product strategy, and not just a checkmark.

If It’s So Important, Why Is It Hard?

There are many reasons why both i18n and L10n can be challenging. Developer teams are tasked with steadily implementing new features and fixes. I18n requirements are often not fully understood. You have organizational turnover, far flung teams, disparate understanding of i18n, and the fact that perfectly functional development may deliver the feature, but not the locale requirement. Testing may or may not ever directly relate to i18n and L10n within the same sprint. Then figure that you have multiple sprints and often source control branches being fired off concurrently. Even more experienced companies with their own internal technology investments tend to have a jury-rigged series of scripts that still depend on human action and are subject to process error and delay.

This is where our Lingoport Suite software for managing i18n and L10n can make for significant gains in quality, time to market and development savings. It is natural that if you find i18n issues during the day’s development tasks, you can fix them easily and quickly without any backlog or impact on your development velocity. Same goes for localization changes. Automate those, and you can stay right on target and never have to search for changes and updates to files. If one little string changes, it’s no big deal. The updated translation is automated out and back into your code. Plus it’s all made visual via dashboard and controllable even through collaboration tools like Slack. Even the QA team has continuously updated test cases, so that US English (or whatever your home language may be) is just another locale.

Back to the Apple Bug

I did a little reading plus reached out to a few experts beyond our team, to pin down what might have happened at Apple. Their situation is probably not a simple case of using some deprecated function or locale unsafe class. Apple does support Unicode after all. It’s a bit surprising that one Unicode character out of some 55,000 in the first Unicode plane would cause such problems. As a (useless) guess, something is going wrong at the OS level when the character is processed and displayed. Perhaps the character processing algorithm, in this case, leads to a buffer overflow. Even if you don’t expect to converse in Telugu, nefarious types are using the character in text bombs to disable Apple devices. A fix is forthcoming.

Why This Matters:

It’s unlikely that you’ll run into a bug this complex within typical application development. But this is an excellent illustration that it’s far less painful to get i18n and L10n right before release. Have good systems for finding and fixing issues like embedded strings, concatenations, functions/classes that aren’t locale safe, character encoding bottlenecks, and programming patterns that mess up your intended results. Then take out the file nanny busy work around localization updates so every sprint is easily localized. Win over your worldwide customers with software that’s up to date with their own preferred locale behavior and language.

Further reading:

Bug report:

Interesting analysis:

The State of Continuous i18n & L10n Survey Results

Throwing it Over the Wall

Don’t fall into this simple trap when internationalizing for the first time that can cost years of work and millions of dollars! Our friend Steve, from Plodding Tech. was subject one such story.

Steve knew Plodding Tech. needed to expand their market reach, but he felt his team was too busy to tackle the large-scale project of Globalization. His assumption was that it would be simple string refactoring and translation work anyway. The presumed solution was to reach out to a low-cost outsourcing firm, Raindrop.

It seemed like a cost-friendly solution when it was initially pitched.

Once Steve threw the globalization work over the wall he felt like Plodding Tech. would be moving into the global marketplace in no time.

It was a couple of months before Steve realized his outsourcing firm was learning the intricacies of internationalization (i18n) for the first time. Every couple of months his contact at Raindrop changed as the firm was dealing with a heavy staff rotation.  Steve found that despite outsourcing he was acting as a manager of Plodding Tech.’s i18n efforts. This was exactly the effort he was trying to avoid by throwing it over the wall. 

The outsourcing firm simply didn’t understand what Plodding Tech. was about and what their software brought to the world. What’s worse is they simply didn’t have the ability to quickly react to messaging changes or detail corrections across the target locales in a timely manner. Even after two months, there we still many embedded strings

Often mistakes were overlooked and code drops from the outsourcing group were resolved months after their due date. This was frustrating as Steve was making weekly efforts to advance within the domestic market.

As time wore on Steve felt less like he had hired an outsourcing firm but paid for an assortment of entry-level contractors to tackle a specialized job.

Months became years, and when evaluating the project Steve came to a harsh realization. Even though they started out thinking the solution would be cheaper, little by little, they ended up spending $750,000, not including their own time spent trying to manage the efforts. The outsourcing firm had not developed a methodology to get through the i18n process. There were still embedded strings, application components that hadn’t be updated, Locale frameworks were insufficiently implemented. There was no clear definition of complete.

His own team had moved ahead with several versions and now he had a forked development effort as the i18n had never been well tested, had unresolved issues and so hadn’t been merged back into their code.

That was 3 quarters of a million plus 2 years of phone calls, emails, meetings, and stress. In addition, 2 years of lost market potential.

Steve was burying his head in his hands. This isn’t right, i18n should be creating new revenue streams, not cutting away from the bottom line.  Steve needed to try something new…

Steve needed experts.

When Steve started looking for i18n experts he quickly stumbled upon Lingoport, as anyone reading this article has. After laying out the scope and details of his project Lingoport was able to complete the work for Plodding Tech. in a few short months because our methodology is already in place.

Lingoport’s software was put in place. A list of bugs and issues found in the code could be methodically burned down, tested and completed. His team could work in concert with Lingoport’s services.

Rather than working hard to manage the outsourcing firm Steve found Lingoport came to him knowing the right questions to ask to get the job done and were addressing i18n concerns he didn’t know existed.

Now I’m sure you’re thinking Steve and Plodding Tech. are made up, and you’d be right their name has been changed to protect the innocent. However the 2 years wasted, and the spent dollars were all too real. Don’t let your company face the horrors and losses of throwing i18n over the wall.  

The State of Continuous i18n & L10n Survey Results

Internationalization and Localization Case Studies

Helping Technology Leaders Take on the World

Globally focused technology companies have turned to Lingoport to accelerate and improve how their software is built for world markets.

The following case studies are a sampling of Lingoport’s commitment to provide best-of-breed internationalization solutions to Fortune 500 enterprises as well as smaller technology firms with important globalization plans.

CiscoCisco Systems approached Lingoport for help meeting aggressive i18n requirements and deadlines for their critical TelePresence product. The effort involved using Globalyzer and i18n consulting services to enable this large application with multiple programming languages and a complex architecture, to support a wide range of locale requirements.

Read the Cisco TelePresence internationalization case study.

Copyright Clearance CenterCopyright Clearance Center (CCC) was prompted to adapt their multi-tiered platform for a German customer they signed. They worked with Lingoport to address their i18n technical debt while supporting concurrent development of new features.

Read the Copyright Clearance Center internationalization case study.

LanyonLanyon was challenged with supporting growing information interfaces that needed new multicultural requirements. By choosing Lingoport as their i18n vendor, Lanyon’s limited engineering resources were able to keep focusing on their core tasks. Read the Lanyon internationalization case study.

IronPlanetThis leading online marketplace for heavy equipment knew their global business prospects depended on a well organized i18n initiative. They turned to Lingoport for a successfully internationalized release with fast market results.

Read the Iron Planet internationalization case study.

Internationalization case study with sycle.netApproached by a larger corporate investor/partner to take their hearing care practice care management application global, Sycle relied on Lingoport to analyze their code and augment their team to get the job done.

Read the internationalization case study.

Cisco TelePresence

Cisco TelePresence, which debuted in 2006, is an advanced video conferencing system developed by Cisco Systems. Designed to link together conference rooms at any two points in the world, TelePresence provides a 1080p video feed along with spatial audio, creating a virtual conference room.

Scope of Work

Cisco initially hired Lingoport to audit TelePresence source code for internationalization (i18n) issues in order to avoid potential costly issues before moving on to localization (L10n). Through a static analysis of the TelePresence code using Globalyzer—a client/server software internationalization system—Lingoport was able to establish a clear picture of the internationalization issues and create a well-defined path toward internationalization. This avoided the uncertain trial and error outcome of relying on iterative testing, script-based searching or human line-by-line review, which are slow, incomplete and error prone processes. With this understanding, Lingoport architects and Cisco engineering discussed best alternatives for an internationalization architectural approach, and built plans that accommodated release cycles for concurrent i18n and new feature development. Cisco then contracted with Lingoport to implement internationalization development and testing services.


Though there had been initial efforts in some of the code to support internationalization, there was a large effort needed. TelePresence included several distinct application components, including multiple programming languages as well as sophisticated hardware and build environments. Concurrent product development was extremely active. A nearly year-long project plan was developed to support the release of TelePresence into 28 languages, and a number of additional locales. This plan was implemented within a busy development, testing and release schedule that had already been set.

In order to maintain the original development schedule and implement a robust internationalization plan, teams were augmented and allowed to branch off and work on their piece of the code.

The Lingoport Solution

Through the use of Lingoport’s Globalyzer i18n software, the teams were able to itemize and walk developers through code refactoring efforts. This facilitated tasks such as string externalization and changing methods/functions/classes and programming patterns that inhibited or prevented locale support requirements. Globalyzer also made the effort more scalable as developers had a clear path of action and utilities to speed up the process. Lingoport’s engineering team added internationalization support to the architecture and refactored code to support worldwide locale requirements. Additionally, when Cisco engineering added new code and features to the build,  it was checked using Globalyzer for new i18n issues. Internationalization criteria were added to testing protocols and functionality was assured. Lingoport and Cisco also coordinated with localization efforts so that L10n testing could be integrated with i18n functional testing, without delay.

In May of 2011 Richard Faubert, QA Manager at Cisco, joined Adam Asnes of Lingoport and Gary Condon of Sajan to review and discuss some of the challenges faced in internationalizing and localizing TelePresence. Click here to view “Internationalizing and Localizing Cisco’s TelePresence – A Case Study.”


Internationalizing a large code base is an extensive effort, but it can be successfully executed even on an actively developing product. Using Globalyzer, developers can accurately gain valuable metrics for planning, step through and fix issues during implementation and facilitate i18n verification and testing. Lingoport’s services expertise ensured successful delivery, on time, and on budget. Augmenting the development team with expert tools and help from Lingoport allowed Cisco to concentrate on new feature development while the internationalization experts at Lingoport were able to refactor the existing code base.

When developing new software, internationalization can be an integral part of the process in order to avoid costly subsequent localization mistakes and a potential loss of revenues from new target markets. Internationalization issues, from basic to complex, are likely to develop with large development teams even when internationalization is within the product development requirements. Thinking that it won’t happen is a bit like thinking developers won’t accidentally create bugs and inefficiencies in code. Internationalization products that identify issues, help with remedies and monitor global readiness ensure quality and on-time global releases. Using an adaptable i18n tool like Globalyzer allowed Cisco TelePresence to be successfully internationalized in a timely and predictable manner.


Lanyon Website Localization and Internationalization Case StudyOutsourcing Drives Competitive Advantage for Travel Technology Leader

About Lanyon

Lanyon, a leading information distributor to consumer travel sites like Expedia, as well as corporate travel departments, faced a problem familiar to every globally-ambitious technology firm.

Scope of the Work

Their international customers (chiefly hotel operators) preferred to work with the company’s information-gathering applications in their native languages. And when your business depends on the accuracy and timeliness of such information, internationalization becomes a strategic issue.

Philip Blahut, Lanyon’s director of software development, saw an opportunity. More than simply a convenience for their customers, language and culturally-specific interfaces represented a crucial competitive advantage for Lanyon.

Lingoport’s Solution

Blahut turned to Lingoport for several reasons. Like many firms, Lanyon lacked the specialized expertise for rebuilding information interfaces to support multicultural requirements. More importantly, Blahut needed to keep the company’s limited engineering resources focused on core tasks. And Lingoport’s long-standing relationships with leading l10n service providers made the choice simple.

Lingoport’s outsourcing team stepped in to manage the entire internationalization process, including coordination with Lanyon’s preferred L10n partner. “Lingoport’s team was completely professional, setting clear expectations and timelines, then meeting them,” said Blahut. “It allowed me to stay ‘hands off’ in completing the project, and insulate our critical internal resources from distractions we couldn’t afford.”

In short order, the work yielded top line results as well. A Chinese hotel customer chose Lanyon as their information redistributor, in part because Lanyon was the only alternative that supported native-language information exchange. Other Asian clients followed.

“As we expand our global reach, we’ll need more support in converting our applications for world markets,” Blahut asserted. “We expect Lingoport’s services to be a major part of those efforts.”

Iron Planet

IronPlanet relies on Lingoport's Internationalization SolutionsTaking an Online Vertical Market Leader’s Code Global

About Iron Planet

Iron Planet, the world’s leading online auction company for used heavy equipment, faced a familiar problem. The time had come to add multilingual support to their innovative website, but the in-house development team was already fully committed delivering other enhancements necessary to support the rapidly growing business (named one of the Inc. 5000 fastest growing private companies in America in 2007).

Scope of the Work

Jeff Barca-Hall, IronPlanet’s CTO, and a veteran of leading enterprise software firms, recognized the benefit of bringing in outside expertise to adapt the large body of code running the IronPlanet website and address the company’s requirements for immediate (or sooner) localization in the overseas markets where IronPlanet usage was most prevalent.

Lingoport’s Solution

That’s where Lingoport came in. Three localization firms IronPlanet considered for translation services all recommended Lingoport for structural code remediation. Working in concert with IronPlanet’s chosen L10n firm,, Lingoport’s services team, using the company’s proprietary Globalyzer technology, analyzed and adapted IronPlanet’s code, line-by-line, to ensure the quality of the current and future localization work the company undertook.

“The work Lingoport did for IronPlanet was first-rate,” said Barca-Hall. “Their focus, expertise, and attention to detail were crucial to the project’s success. By operating as an extension of our team, Lingoport enabled us to fully internationalize our codebase in a much shorter timeframe than we could have accomplished on our own.”


Code base internationalization support for Sycle by Lingoporti18n Project Support Services Accelerate International Opportunities

About Sycle

In six short years, Sycle built a dynamic, growing business supplying the most advanced online patient management and marketing application to over 3,500 hearing care practitioners in the US and Canada. But when the world came calling, a daunting task lay ahead.

Scope of the Work

A prospective partner approached Sycle to take their business to overseas markets. Like many growth businesses, however, Sycle didn’t have the depth of experience – or easily available resources – to take on the software re-engineering required for the task.

Sean Shofstall, Sycle’s CTO, understood the challenge: the company’s code base, developed for domestic markets, was full of common impediments to easy, repeatable localization. And the confusing array of localization options wasn’t easy to sort through, as well.

Lingoport’s Solution

Lingoport’s endorsement of a localization partner helped get the ball rolling, and under Sycle’s management, both the i18n and localization projects were completed in timely, cost-effective fashion.

“It’s easy to get bogged down in localization projects if you’re new to the space,” said Shofstall. “Unless you’re lucky enough to have in-house software internationalization resources – and we aren’t – it pays to bring in the experts. Lingoport’s work helped make our path to international markets smoother than we’d ever hoped.”

Copyright Clearance Center

Internationalizing a Multi-Layered Application Suite with Concurrent Development

A Case Study Discussing Internationalization for Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink Customer Application

Internationalization Issues

Operating on a tight deadline, Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) had to implement internationalization while other teams were developing parts of their German customer’s application. This business and development plan is not unusual, as rarely can a development team focus entirely on internationalization rather than developing new features, and execute for a tight deadline. CCC’s code base was complex and their application suite was developed for needs of customers over time. It used different technologies across modules, leading to unique internationalization challenges, including:

  • Different applications developed by various teams and styles.
  • Architect’s differing ways of handling database requests, configurability, string handling, and other operations.
  • Implementing internationalization into concurrent development work.
  • Configuration standards specific to applications.

Business Case

CCC’s RightsLink solution simplifies the licensing of content that allows businesses and academic institutions to quickly get permission to use copyright-protected materials – all while compensating publishers and content creators for the use of their works.

Since its founding in 1978, CCC had predominantly worked with publishers in the United States. In a major foray into the international markets, CCC was able to sign on a key German consortium of publishers and was soon confronted with internationalizing and localizing its RightsLink customer facing application for Germany and other potential locales.

Why Lingoport?

After evaluating a number of internationalization providers, CCC engaged with Lingoport for an initial internationalization assessment. Lingoport used both static analysis of RightsLink source code using Globalyzer—Lingoport’s enterprise internationalization system—and architectural analysis of internationalization requirements and development planning.

CCC recognized that Lingoport’s expert i18n engineering staff would be a great asset working under release pressure to deliver a quality internationalized product.

The Lingoport Solution

CCC chose a hybrid i18n implementation solution and worked hand-in-hand with Lingoport’s engineering team. Tasks included i18n design, development and quality assurance based on agile methodology, with four sprints of four weeks each.

The internationalization included Unicode enabling of JSP pages to string externalization and JQuery date picker. JIRA was used to assign tasks in an agile approach.

Internationalization and Risk

Internationalization is its own development specialty. Expertise and experience count when identifying potential issues, planning for new markets, designing approaches and implementation solutions. Furthermore, potential delays and surprise costs are highly disruptive to business agreements and new customer relationships, potentially also dragging the development team from other core project development.

Successful Release

The internationalization effort for CCC’s Germany based customer was successful, on time, on budget and very well received. John Boyea, a Principal Engineer at CCC, commended Lingoport’s efforts, saying, “You  have it all wrong. It is I, who should be thanking you.  We asked you to work under difficult circumstances, with very aggressive goals and limited resources.  Linda Lawson (Lingoport’s Engineering Lead) met or exceeded my expectations in every regard.  The same for Olivier Libouban (Lingoport’s Globalization Lead).  We simply would not have had the success we have had to date without the two of you.  So I thank you both for that very much.  On a personal note I enjoyed working with the both of you as well.  I feel I got to know you in some limited way and for that I am grateful.  Best wishes on your future endeavors.”

About Copyright Clearance Center Rightslink

Copyright Clearance Center, Inc. (CCC), a not-for-profit organization, is a leading provider of collective copyright licensing services for corporate and academic users of copyrighted materials. The company procures agreements with rightsholders, primarily text publishers and authors for print and online, and also acts as agent for them. For additional information, please visit their website.

Next Steps

We have found that every internationalization effort has its own business needs and technical requirements, best served by getting started with a conversation. Contact Lingoport by email at or call +1 303 444 8020 to arrange a consultative discussion.


A Collaboration in the Globalization of Partner Central

85% of VMware’s revenue comes from its global partner network and providing a quality partner experience globally is essential not only to the bottom line, but also sales growth. Their channel marketing portal, Partner Central, supports 50,000 companies and 300,000 users globally. As much as 90% of the worldwide partners however were not using the portal as a result of the lack of localized content and language barrier issues!
Providing its channel partners with fully localized training and comprehensive sales and marketing resources became critical to drive deeper partner acceptance and membership growth.

Internationalization & Localization Issues

During the initial self-audit on the localization experience across web assets, VMware discovered that while their customer facing websites were polished in terms of localization, partners on Partner Central experienced a disconnected user experience due to lack of translated content and marketing program in their native language. The underlying system did not support date & time formats, character sets or proper sorting order in Japanese. Many strings were hard-coded and there was not a method to transport information in foreign languages from their CMS to the Portal.

To move forward, VMware found that it had to meet the following challenges:

  • Enable the underlying Partner Portal platform to support i18n & L10n with assessment, roadmaps and detailed resource managing.
  • Educate the development team performing internationalization on best-practices and how to spot issues in the code using Globalyzer.
  • Manage cross-functional teams, technological and workflow dependencies across all timezones.
  • Assure that a hard delivery date was met, and defined QA standards were met for every locale.

Why Lingoport

VMware’s Corporate Globalization Group was well versed in localization best-practices, and had amassed a large amount of linguistic assets to assist with localization workflow. However, Partner Central required a partner with expertise internationalization practices and program management services to assist with:

  • gathering architectural and code review level information to create a clear planning path.
  • active participation, guidance and perspective with the internationalization components of the project.
  • program management support to drive i18n implementation with the development team as well as coordinate localization activities within VMware worldwide.

The Solution

Lingoport & VMware developed a robust project plan that looked beyond the surface content, and drilled down into the framework & development layer. Lingoport provided direct input into VMware’s business requirement documents to ensure i18n and L10n requirements were specifically defined.

i18n Issues Cause Solution
Application code not internationalized at all First portal to localize at VMware i18n Assessment & Best Practice Recommendations
Locale management 3rd party tool support
Developer understanding of locale versus language
Careful thinking of how to match language and country to locale management
Developer education First time i18n effort of this portal; developers trivialized importance of i18n/L10n; took assessment recommendations as optional Point back to i18n report
Train, educate, and share mindset along the way, and with hard lessons learned


L10n Issues Cause Solution
Difficult to translate Dynamic and highly modular content Screen shots
Excel sheets w/ comments
Guidelines for Master Data
Difficult to review; QA starts prior to review being finalized English sites can’t be frozen
New content drops & hard delivery dates & phases overlap
Collaboration on review between business and linguistic reviewers
Track review feedback as bugs in QA
New unplanned content drops; Crunched schedules Missed application strings
Hard delivery dates
Insert into schedule somehow, causing L10n process steps to overlap

Testing Solutions

Test solutions involved a ton of testing and cross training of teams. All teams had to agree upon exit and success criteria, and nightly discussions, demos and meetings were held. The testing framework was as follows.

• Upon the completion of software i18n development, and functional testing
• Includes pseudo-localization testing
• Initial round performed by Lingoport
• Meetings and written guides to provide IT/QA teams ability to establish i18n testing in ongoing practices
• Linguistic verification by translation vendor
• In-context linguistic verification on staging server(s)
• On staging server(s)
• Trainings, demos, and nightly meetings
• Support testers with application knowledge, login credentials to reach content to test
• Small version of UAT with selected pilot team of business stakeholders
• Functional QA and of different scenarios
• Final review of localized content in context
• All stakeholders responsible of the final localized site


In the first limited globalized release for the Chinese and Japanese marketplaces, the Japanese localized content became the 9th highest ranked in total Partner Central pageviews, which Chinese was ranked 17th, respectfully, within the first month of launch. Previously, the total page views ranked less than 1% each for these countries.
An increase in traffic translates to increased number of transactions and deal registrations, stipulating the goal for proven ROI for the globalization of Partner Central and further language support.

About VMware

VMware has over 400K customers and 95% of Fortune 1000 CO’s, and is a global leader in virtualization and cloud infrastructure, delivering customer-proven solutions that accelerate IT by reducing complexity and enabling more flexible, agile service delivery.

  • Focus 1: Software Defined Data Center (SDDC)
  • Focus 2: Hybrid Cloud
  • Focus 3: End User Computing (EUC)

Lingoport is dedicated to help companies reach their global readiness potential. Start a conversation with us about your project needs. We’ll be happy to enable and educate you on your i18n & L10n needs so you can be assured your products are ready for world markets.

Challenges to Internationalizing Mobile Devices & Tablets

At last week’s Internationalization and Localization Conference, Globalization Guru Edwin Hoogerbeets was kind enough to join me to share some of his insight on the challenges specific to internationalizing mobile devices. How does the small screen size of a mobile device affect the user interface and how are phone numbers affected by i18n?

We have posted video recordings and slides of the presentations for all those who attended. If you did not attend and would like to have access to the presentations, please contact sthomas(at) for details.