One of my many in-progress-but-on-the-back-burner projects is studying the ways in which websites are localized for Quebec. I am particularly interested in how and when Quebec is targeted separately from the rest of (French) Canada. Yahoo!, for example, has been localized for English Canada and French Quebec, which ignores the official-language minority groups: the French speakers outside Quebec and the English speakers inside it. And while the latest Yahoo! International page does list Yahoo! Quebec as a locale within Canada (in the map) and as a special Yahoo! homepage within the Americas (in the list of country names), not too long ago, the page was a little different:
In this version, the table above the map lists available locales in alphabetical order. In the Americas column are: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Quebec and the United States. Unlike the rest of these locales, however, Quebec is not an independent country. And unlike the various US locales (US in Chinese, US in Russian), which are clearly variations of the larger US-EN locale, Québec was not listed as a subset of Canada. What is interesting is that only Canada and the United States had separate links for the various languages in which their sites are available. Even though Yahoo! Switzerland is available in French, German and Italian, only one hyperlink (to the Swiss-German site) was listed in the text box, and this has stayed the same in the updated Yahoo! International page. Click on the link in the first paragraph to see for yourself.
By contrast, in the map, a part/whole relationship between Quebec and Canada was apparent, as a dotted arrow led from Canada to Y! Québec, just as dotted arrows led from United States to US in Chinese and Y! Telemundo. Switzerland, by contrast, had only one hyperlink on the interactive map, and no indication that three locales were actually available: Swiss-French, Swiss-German and Swiss-Italian.
Does this have political implications? Possibly. In the previous table, Yahoo! was depicting Quebec not just as a distinct locale (one in which French is spoken) but as a nation with the same status as independent countries like Canada and Argentina. And, in both the old and new Yahoo! International pages, Yahoo! has indicated that Quebec is either the only area in Canada where French is spoken, or the only one important enough to target, since it is the only French-language version available for Canadian Internet users. Where does that leave the French-speaking minorities outside the province? There’s some intriguing room for research here, but I’d like to collect some more examples of Quebec as a targeted locale before I draw any conclusions. Any thoughts would be welcome.