About requesting a new locale for Firefox

Currently, it’s not possible to request a new locale for the Firefox project directly from Pontoon. This post tries to clarify why that’s the case, and what are the requirements to qualify for localizing Firefox.

Firefox is by far the largest project localized at Mozilla, currently sitting at 11,000 strings (about 60,000 words). It’s also the oldest project, which means it uses a complex infrastructure to ship to users:

  • Each locale needs its own Mercurial repository.
  • Once a locale is added to the General Audience (GA) builds — Beta/Release/ESR — we start creating and archiving hundreds of builds, since the main form of distribution is currently what we call a “single-locale build” (a build including only one locale).
  • If a locale falls behind, we can’t simply remove it. We need to initiate a series of processes to move existing users to another language through the update system.

In order to provide users with a good experience, we want to make sure that the localization is kept up to date. Using a build that is nominally in “language X”, but ends up being mostly in English, is not a good experience. This is also why we won’t accept a new locale with only one active translator: we need a community of active translators and testers to support a translation effort of this size, and that requires so much time.

From a contributor’s perspective, Firefox is a challenging project:

  • It will require months, if not years, to reach users.
  • It requires constant work to keep the translation up to date and tested.
  • Some locales don’t get to the Nightly builds phase, others can’t get past it.
  • It relies heavily on the CLDR database for internationalization (dates, plural forms, etc.), and smaller locales might not be supported there.

There are smaller projects, like Focus or Firefox for Android, where your contribution can have an impact in a much shorter time frame. For these projects, it’s also possible to drop a language without technical complications — although it’s still a poor experience for users.

Once you have managed to translate smaller projects, keep them up to date over time with multiple active translators, you can contact the l10n team to translate Firefox. Note that:

  • Firefox is initially added to Pontoon, but there won’t be builds until a sufficient completion level is reached (details here).
  • Firefox will be added to Beta/Release only after specific criteria are satisfied (details here).

You can find the contact information in the header of the project page in Pontoon, as for any other project.

Note that things might change for the better in the future, although there’s no clear timeline for any of these proposals:

  • If we start shipping Firefox solely as a multilingual build, we remove part of the complexity and costs associated with adding new locales, or dropping obsolete ones.
  • In a multilingual build, we could implement better fallback chains, for example to show Spanish content for some languages when translations are missing, instead of using English.