One of our goals for 2017 is to implement a continuous localization system at Mozilla for Firefox and other projects. The idea is to expose new strings to localizers earlier and more frequently, and to ship updates to users as soon as they’re ready. I’m excited to say that we’ve arrived at one of the key milestones toward a continuous localization system: transitioning localization from Aurora to Nightly.
How can you help?
Starting April 19th, the focus for localization is going to be on Nightly.
If you are a localizer, you should install Nightly in your own language and test your localization.
If you are a member of a local community, you should start spreading the message about the importance of using Nightly to help improve localized versions of Firefox and share feedback with localizers.
Firefox release channels
Mozilla has three (previously four) release channels for Firefox, each with their own dedicated purpose. There’s Nightly (built from the mozilla-central repository), Beta (mozilla-beta), and Release (mozilla-release).
- Nightly: development of Firefox (and now localization)
Aurora: testing & localization (no longer available)
- Beta: stable testing of Firefox
- Release: global distribution of Firefox to general audience
A version of Firefox will “ride the trains” from Nightly to Beta and finally to Release, moving down the channel stream every 6-8 weeks.
With Aurora, localizers were given one cycle to localize new, unchanging content for Firefox. In fact, once moved to Aurora, code would be considered “string frozen”, and only exceptional changes to strings would be allowed to land. Any good update from localizers during that time was signed off and rode the trains for 6-12 weeks before end-users received it.
We spent the last two years asking localizers about their contribution frequency preferences. We learned that, while some preferred this 6 week cycle to translate their strings, the majority preferred to have new content to translate more frequently. We came away from this with the understanding that the thing localizers want most when it comes to their contribution frequency is freedom: freedom to localize new Firefox content whenever they choose. They also wanted the freedom to send those updated translations to end-users as early as possible, without waiting 6-12 weeks. To accommodate this desire for freedom, Axel set out to develop a plan for a continuous localization system that exposes new content to localizers early and often, as well as delivers new l10n updates to users more quickly.
The first continuous localization milestone consisted of removing the sign-off obligation from localizer’s TODO list. The second milestone consists of transitioning localization from the old Aurora channel to the Nightly channel. This transition aims to set the stage for cross-channel localization (one repository per locale with Nightly, Beta, and Release strings together) as well as satisfy the first desired freedom: to localize new Firefox content whenever localizers choose to localize.
This is how it works:
- A developer lands new strings in mozilla-central for Nightly.
- Localization drivers (l10n-drivers) review those new strings and offer feedback to the dev where needed.
- Every 2-3 days, localization drivers update a special clone of mozilla-central used by localization tools.
- Pootle & Pontoon detect when new strings have been added to this special repository and pull them into their translation environments automatically.
- When a new l10n updates is made, Pootle & Pontoon push the change into the locale’s Nightly repository.
- Localization drivers review all new updates into l10n Nightly repositories and sign off on all good updates.
- Good updates are flagged for shipping to Release users when the version of Firefox “rides the trains” to Release.
Localizing on Nightly offers localizers a few benefits:
- Localizers are exposed to new strings earlier for l10n, making it easier for developers to make corrections to en-US strings when localizers report errors.
- Localizers have the freedom to localize whenever new strings land (every 2-3 days) or to define their own cadence (every 2 weeks, 4 weeks, 8 weeks, etc.).
- Without Aurora, new localization updates get to end-users in Release faster.
The next continuous localization milestone is to implement cross-channel localization. Cross-channel will satisfy the second desired freedom: delivering translation updates to end-users faster. It will also drastically simplify the localization process, allowing localizers to land fixes once, and shipping them in all versions of Firefox. If you’d like to follow the work related to cross-channel, you can find it here on GitHub. We expect cross-channel to be ready before June 2017.