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Identifying Language and Locale with DeviceAtlas

Back in May, we added two new data points to DeviceAtlas which are useful for implementations where language and locale (country variant of a language) are of interest as a criteria for targeting content experiences and/or advertising, in addition to criteria already available on the device's physical and vitual capabilities.

Browser language and locale are returned as simple two-letter ISO codes (ISO-639 and ISO-3166), which together indicate the language and country variant of that language; for example en-GB for English as used in the UK , or es-AR for Argentinian Spanish.

For a default browser, this data is highly indicative of the language of the user of the device as well as the local country variation of language. Be that Spanish as spoken/written in Spain, Argentina, or Mexico, or English as spoken or written in the US, Canada, Jamaica, Ireland, or Great Britain. There are currently 249 country codes set out in ISO-3166 and 184 languages defined in ISO-639.

How can this be used within the context of device awareness?

The combination of these two ISO codes, can provide a steer for which language version of a website or piece of content to serve to a visitor,  and because it is not dependent on IP tracking, it may provide more reliable results on the actual language of the user, rather than the language of his/her current location. IP-based language targeting alone does not deal well with roaming usage. If you are in Germany, but don't speak German, chances are you are going to prefer to see web content or advertising in your own language (provided it's available) rather than a local language you don't understand.

Language and locale opens up particulary interesting possiblities in the advertising world. In combination with knowledge of physical location it opens up the potential to reach audiences with locally relevant information in their own language or regional variant, irrespective of where they are at any given time.

You say 'tomayto', I say tomato

From pure content perspective, if you are developing a web application with an international focus, knowing language and locale may be interesting not only to handle customers with a range of different languages, but to cater to the nuances within different variants of the same language. For example, in English, there are significant formatting differences for date and time, between US and UK variants. Is 05/06/14 May 6thor the 5th of June?

There may also be international differences in numbering systems. At one point a British billion was a 1000 times greater than its American counterpart, and although UK English has adopted the 'short scale' (increments of x1000 between billion, trillion), there are many nations who continue to use the 'long scale'.

There are also many differences in spelling and terminology which may be addressed with a knowledge of language and locale. If you are developing an international site, then you may want to include these locales.

DeviceAtlas can do this because the APIs analyze all headers in the detection process, not just the UA string. In addition to language and language locale, the ability to analyze all headers also enables you to identify devices using non-default browsers and to return the name of the robot and/or crawler, should the visit come from one.

Image credit: The Confusion of Tongues by Gustave Doré (1865)


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