In competitive business environments of continuous change and strategic adaptation, it is inevitable to witness the advancement of only a few technologies that ultimately stall at their own limitations. For years, the language technology industry has been controlled by its own acceptance of a few solutions with inherent limitations of long-term extendibility and interoperability. Without generally accepted standards, a polarization of development processes has occurred, with two-ton gorillas cornering the translation and localization industry, and well intentioned grass-root efforts responding with dozens of ineffective over-specialized solutions.
Technology Specialists and Developers Join Forces
Tired of playing along to get along, a significant community of language technology specialists and developers is joining forces to redefine the development standards of translation and localization technologies. Called the Okapi Framework, this effort is using the natural forces of an open source development environment, where components are forged through the implementation of common APIs and standards. These components provide tools that make the various steps of the translation and localization process more interoperable, while still allowing a diversity of solutions. Intended for both advanced developers as well as end-users, the Okapi Framework is designed independently of any platform specifics.
Open source software development models are nothing new to the translation and localization industry. As software innovation drives global technology and business advancements, open source efforts continue to contribute to a more diverse set of long-term solutions. Organically, open source projects support interoperable customization, where the users fundamentally determine the collective direction by actively contributing to the growth and standardization. With ever-changing specialized needs, enterprise clients now differentiate language service providers not by their licensed software solutions, but rather their dynamic expertise in the localization software environments and platforms. Software industry hero Tim O'Reilly recognizes today's globally-minded organization as a surfer riding on a big wave: "They don't rely on containment or tight control of the environment to maintain their position, but rather, an exquisite balance and an ability to respond to rapidly changing conditions."
Open Source Language Technology
As a pioneer of the Okapi Framework, ENLASO Corporation is porting several of its proprietary language technologies to this open source effort. The tools include Rainbow, Album, Horizon, and Olifant, which collectively and individually improve localization processes at every stage, from translation file preparation to developing and managing translation memories. Filters and utilities are being ported to implement the Okapi Filter and Utility Set interfaces. Any .NET or COM-enabled application can take advantage of these components. For example, you are able to use the filters directly from Microsoft Word or Excel. Initially, Olifant will be partially rewritten to implement a more robust back-end while Rainbow will be ported to a native .NET application.
The World's Largest Collaborative Development Site
The Okapi open source effort is hosted by SourceForge.net to give developers a broader access to open source technologies. SourceForge.net, part of the OSTG (Open Source Technology Group) Network, is the world's largest collaborative development site, with more than one million registered users and 96,000 projects. OSTG is the leading network of technology sites for today's IT managers and development professionals and provides a unique combination of news, original articles, downloadable resources, and community forums to help IT buyers, influencers and users make critical decisions about information technology products and services.
The tide is turning: the days of two-ton gorillas stalling technical advancement are numbered. Open source development initiatives, such as the Okapi Framework, are helping the language industry move toward more collaboration and standardization — ultimately reducing the potential problems of a global industry's over-dependency upon a few proprietary solutions.
Incidentally, if you've ever had the opportunity to see an Okapi in the wild, you've seen arguably one of nature's most wondrous creations. An Okapi is also a forest animal of the Congo River basin in Africa — with the combined appearance of a giraffe, a donkey, and a zebra. The Okapi is truly a motley creature composed of specialized traits and dynamic abilities. No stranger to innovation, the Okapi is the only mammal that has a blue tongue — and can clean its ears with it. Try to get a 2-ton gorilla to do that!