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GlobalSight to Go Open Source?
Posted by Donald A. DePalma on June 30, 2008  in the following blogs: Technology, Market Data
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Last week at the LISA conference in Foster City, California, CEO Smith Yewell raised the possibility of putting Welocalize's recently acquired GlobalSight Ambassador software into the open-source arena. Meanwhile, disenfranchised Idiom buyers brought up the topic of open-sourcing WorldServer as SDL outlines its plans for migrating them to its own SDL TMS product. Open source, discontinued product lines, and invisibility characterize the fates of the contenders for the 1999 Globalization Software of the Year award: eTranslate (now at Translations.com), GlobalSight (Welocalize), Idiom (SDL), and Uniscape (SDL).
  • The new owners paid cents or nano-cents for TMS. Venture capitalists invested US$50 million in the  GlobalSight translation management system (TMS) before Transware took it off their hands for pennies on the dollar; Yewell got it for even less. A few years back, Translations.com paid Convey Software a pittance for its eTranslate GlobalLink assets. In 2005, SDL got the original Uniscape (renamed GXT) technology as part of its purchase of Trados. More recently, it scored Idiom for about one third of what the VC invested.

  • Removing the founders freed the new owners to do what they want. In most of these transactions, the founders and executive team went on with their lives -- elsewhere. With those egos out of the way, the companies that acquired these technologies can consider all options -- painful and surprising -- including open source (Welocalize) or discontinuing the products (SDL).

  • Development of these systems has taken different routes. Idiom was the only one of the systems under active, visible development. GlobalLink has been under stealthy development at Translations.com but in use by dozens of its clients. For a few years, GlobalSight was parked with Chinese outsourcer Augmentum. Shortly after it acquired Trados, SDL started the countdown to end-of-life for GXT in favor of SDL TMS.

  • Thirty-six LSPs in search of a TMS. Idiom counted 36 language service providers in its LSP Advantage program, some of whom felt betrayed by the SDL acquisition. There are many more translation companies looking build or buy translation management solutions. A TMS with truly open-source credentials, managed under the GNU General Public License could offer much of they want in terms of functionality and long-term supplier independence. The GlobalSight technology is a bit frayed around the edges, but it could be a good starting point for an open-source effort. It wouldn't be alone -- the Forum Open Language Tools (FOLT) has an open-source TMS in mind. FOLT could be a new home for -- or a rival to -- GlobalSight. Would SDL make WorldServer open source? Don't hold your breath.

  • Open source hasn't done too well in the localization industry. Everybody likes the idea of open source, but the language technology sector hasn't embraced it. When Lionbridge acquired International Communications, it sent the ForeignDesk TM tool off to open-source limbo. ALPNET's attempt to open-source its translation technology went nowhere. ENLASO's Okapi Framework is the latest valiant but heretofore unsuccessful contender. Companies in the translation sector seem to want to own their language processing technology. Were it to open-source GlobalSight, Welocalize would have to do far more than its predecessors did to evangelize and energize a community willing to develop the technology.

  • Could GlobalSight find its way to TAUS? As a charter member of the TAUS Data Association (TDA), Welocalize could donate the technology to accelerate the platform development that will take place in the second half of the year.

  • The circle completes. The last we heard, GlobalSight founder Jorden Woods was advocating open-source CMS solutions over the offerings of the translation management sector he pioneered with Uniscape's Alex Pressman, eTranslate's Charlie Baxter, and Idiom's Eric Silberstein. Sending GlobalSight off to forge its future in open source would drip with more than a bit of irony.
Next month we will update our "Translation Management System Scorecards" (Feb07) report in which we'll rate GlobalSight Ambassador's current edition and a covey of other translation management technologies, both commercial and captive. Meanwhile, our May report on "Evolution and Revolution in Translation Management" lays out the state of the market and describes our TMS assessment criteria.


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