An Interoperability Timeline
The Power of Standards to Create New Opportunities
At TAUS we're forward-thinking. Which means we try to know our history. So explore with us a selected history of interoperability to highlight how open standards enable interoperability and in turn foster innovation.
Common Era - The Birth of the Page
The codex - the forerunner to the modern book - radically improved information management habits as a new ad-hoc standard after centuries of using scrolls in the ancient world.
Developed from the Roman's wax tablets in the early Common Era, the codex was basically a book of numbered pages instead of seamless ribbon of text. You could search for information using page, paragraph and line numbers and once printing came along in the 15th century, anyone could access the same information at the same page location, largely facilitating the spread of knowledge and a critical mindset. Pages could theoretically be any size, though were often standardized to 30+ lines. By standardizing format, they provided a random access information media that finds an echo in the concept of web pages today.
17th century - Music notation
The establishment of the 5-line staff with key signatures at the left meant that almost any musical tune could be noted down and shared without loss of information. The music content could then be 'played' on almost any appropriate instrument by anyone who knows the code to the content.
1735 - Scientific Nomenclature
Linnaeus established a set of universally accepted conventions for the naming of organisms in taxonomy, marking the starting point for a binominal nomenclature of any species on the planet. Anyone describing an animal or bird can exchange information as a set of Latin names ordered in a hierarhy with anyone else while preserving the animal's location in the hierarchy.
1893 - Safety through Interoperability
The Safe Appliance Act in the US has been described as the first US Government "Interoperability" standard. It defined the innovative compressed airbrakes and automatic couplers as a standard on railcards to ensure the safety of the workforce. Today railroad interoperability in Europe, for example, is focues on such areas as rail gauges, command and control, signaling and radio communication frequencies.
1968 - Universal Library Catalogs
The MARC (for MAchine-Readable Cataloging) standard across library communities was developed by the library of Congress to solve electronic bibliographic information management problems. It defines a bibliographic format that became the international standard for inter-library operations so that computers could exchange, use, and interpret bibliographic information. Its data elements make up the foundation of most library catalogs today. The MARC-8 standard includes a set of character codes for encoding different types of writing systems used in the titles of books worldwide.
1987 - Unicode at last
Unicode emerged from work at Xerox and Apple on the practicalities of creating a unique, universal character set. As a 16-bit architecture, it was intended to replace the previous 8-bit ASCII coding set so as to ensure full interoperability for writing system characters across all computing systems and printers.
1990 - The creation of LISA
The Localisation Industry Standards Association was founded in Amsterdam to bring vendors and suppliers together and forge interoperability standards for the translation and localization industry in the field of translation resources. Among its achievements were the creation of OSCAR (Open Standards for Container/Content Allowing Re-use) body that pioneered standards such as TMX and TBX. LISA was dissolved in February 2011, but the standards heritage it launched lives on.
1997 - Web Interoperability Pledge
The Web Interoperability Pledge was introduced in response to a threat to the Web's single global HTML standard when Microsoft and Netscape forced webmasters to choose between two incompatible flavors of HTML or oblige them to build two versions of their website. Under the pledge, web masters and vendors agreed to the following:
"I pledge to use only recommended HTML tags as defined by W3C"
"I pledge to support recommended HTML tags as defined by W3C, and submit all extensions to HTML to W3C before shipping them."
The overwhelming response from the web user base forced these vendors to accept a single global standard for HTML. The rest is history.
1998 - TMX
This LISA/OSCAR-driven standard allows easier exchange of translation memory between tools and/or translators with little or no loss of critical data. It forms part of OAXAL and represented a landmark for the industry in terms of interoperability potential.
XLIFF (XML Localization Interchange File Format) is an XML-based format created to standardize the localization process by specifying 'trans-units' across languages. XLIFF was standardized by OASIS and now forms part of the overarching Open Architecture for XML Authoring and Localization (OAXAL).
2009 - OAXAL for XML Authoring and Localization
The OASIS (open standards) OAXAL Technical Committee approved the OAXAl v1.0 Reference Model as an official OASIS Committee Specification. It represents a model for the authoring and translation aspects of XML publishing. OAXAL encompasses a number of open standards now current in the localization industry.
TAUS Executive Forum, Edinburgh
Landmark TAUS Executive Forum on Open Translation Platforms (videos of all talks from the event are found via the article).
2010 - For the people by the people: The European Interoperability Strategy
The European Interoperability Strategy is an initiative adopted by the European Commission to build a common information management approach for public administrations in EU countries. The idea is to ensure that citizens and businesses can profit fully from the Single Market by having easier access to official information and documents, and to public tenders. Basically it will mean that all public IT systems are interoperable and that the content held in them is equally accessible to all on a cheap, level playing field.
2011 - TAUS the watchdog
March - TAUS the Interoperability Watchdog
TAUS steps up as Interoperability Watchdog for translation industry and undertakes consultation. TAUS members and other contributors to the consultation fully endorse (90%) TAUS. Results can be viewed here.
April - TAUS Labs
TAUS begins formulating a plan for Labs to provide strategic change leadership on key industry initiatives, and ensure enhanced execution and improved governance. Interoperability and translation quality evaluation highlighed as key focus areas. Status update communicated with the article - Putting the cart before the horse.
June - TAUS Executive Forum, Barcelona
Sixty industry leaders from suppply and demand-side meet to debate interoperability and provide clear guidance on an immediate focus area for TAUS - OASIS XLIFF. The debate is summarized in - Kicking off the Great Translation Debate Series.
July - OASIS XLIFF Global Market Survey
The OASIS XLIFF Technical Committee and TAUS partner on a global survey to better understand adoption, usage and future industry requirements. Results are found here.
August/September - TAUS at the XLIFF Symposium
A status update is provided through the article - When the Interoperabilty funfair rolls into town.
TAUS presents at the XLIFF Symposium in Warsaw on 28 September, providing a breakdown of global survey results by segment, proposing structure of modularization, an update on consultation with major translation buyers and offering to undertake an analysis of variances in vendor implementations of XLIFF. The offer is not taken up by participants, who represent the major translation technology providers. Slides are found here.
October - TAUS User Conference - Santa Clara
A full day of debate among one hundred industry leaders on how and what to tackle in order to overcome interoperability challenges. TAUS opts to focus on emerging issues. Pragmatic fixes in place for legacy problems, making the business case for industry-wide mitigation difficult. Discussions cover the multilingual web, how to coordinate client-side pressure, integration with CMS systems, the development of common APIs, inter alia. TAUS Labs is launched at the User Conference. Videos of all sessions and reports back following breakout discussions are available on YouTube.
2012 - From ideas to implementation
Throughout year - Standards Committees
TAUS takes part in Technical Committee meetings at ETSI and OASIS to discuss improvements to standards such as TMX, SRX and XLIFF. Very little actual technical discussion takes place with regard to TMX, SRX and other old LISA standards. The progress with drafting of a new version of XLIFF is very slow. TAUS pushes for need to hold an 'Interoperability (Testing) Festival' where open source and proprietary translation technology software can be tested to determine variances in implementations. Differences can then be reconciled and improvements to specifications for inter-related standards can be prorititized and relalized in a coordinated and coherent manner. Such an overview is missing in the fragmented and unnecessarliy complex translation/localization standards space. We would then look to implement this idea for a registry, which came up following debate at the TAUS User Conference in Santa Clara in 2011. Such a resource would help everyone to learn from each others implementations.
April/May - Translation Technology Providers Roundtable, Paris
TAUS provides an overview of drivers for interoperability and update of current activity is a special edition of Multilingual Magazine. The article, Interoperabilty and Ubiquity' can be read here.
June - Translation Technology Providers Roundtable, Paris
We organize and host the first ever meeting bringing together translation technology providers to discuss how to work towards improving segment visibility, interoperability and looking for other grounds for cooperation between vendors. Participants agree to hold a followup meeting. One even suggests we issue a 'declaration of Paris'. TAUS agrees to write a translation technology landcsape report by year end.
September - Publish TAUS Translation Services API
We published an open and simple API Specification to begin tackling an emerging interoperability issue and create a web services architecture for translation services. A number of TAUS members immediately begin to implement the API. Welocalize sponsor the development of a TAUS API Validation Service where everyone can freely test tools to ensure the API is implemented according to specifications. This is available at launch. See this very descriptive press release, summarizing the background and naming TAUS members involved in creating the API specifications and early adopters. See the specifications if you want to get involved.
October - 1st Implementation of API