To set the stage for this talk, I'd like to review some aspects of the Open Source development process that impact Linux and the globalization of Linux in significant ways.
First, Linux is an open system. The “guts” of Linux are completely exposed for everyone to download from the internet and review. Not only is the source code available, but all of the data and meta data required for a complete system are also just a few downloads away. Locale data for hundreds of countries and regions are available. Localized translations for major components of the KDE and Gnome desktops, as well as for software like Mozilla/Firefox, are also freely available.
Second, Linux development is multicentric and collaborative. In addition to the big corporate players like Redhat, Novell SuSE, and IBM, we are now also witnessing the creation of non-profit foundations like the Mozilla Foundation1 and the Apache Software Foundation2. These foundations are beginning to provide long-term vision, legal and financial security for Open Source projects that provide immense community value in their own right. Within the legal frameworks provided by Open Source licenses like the GNU General Public License (GPL)3, everybody in the community can, and does, rely on the resources provided by others. In this multicentric, collaborative universe, similar but different projects, like the KDE and Gnome desktop projects, can co-exist and flourish.
Third, Linux development is evolutionary. With an extremely active and large world-wide community of developers, software evolves on very short time scales. In this system, software that is perceived by the community as having value usually evolves very rapidly to become extremely stable and functional. As people tend to enjoy things written in their own languages and using their own regional conventions, it is only natural that the localization of Linux is assigned a high priority, and thus it is proceeding rapidly.
1. Mozilla Foundation: http://www.mozilla.org.
2. Apache Software Foundation: http://www.apache.org.
3. GNU General Public License: http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html.