Global & Local

Vocabulary hurts or helps

…… Part of The Basics series. First published in August 2005 ……


Global? International? Worldwide? Which is the right word to use to talk about intranets serving an organisation with people located in different countries around the world.

Global” is often used, especially by Americans. Consultants talk about Global IA (global information architecture), companies talk about globalization of their web sites.

One problem with this word is that it has very negative connotations for many people: globalization is perceived to be part of the offshore manufacturing strategy, the Walmart effect, what people riot against during World Trade Organization meetings.

International” is a word often used, but it triggers mixed perceptions also. A company I know has renamed its division outside the US as  “(Company name) International”.  The people making this change perceive 2 parts of the company: here at home, and everything else. Other people will perceive the “(Company name) International” as the headquarters, with the US-based as a country division!

So, we may be left with the word “worldwide“. So far, I have not found any downsides to using it. I plan to do a quick audience opinion survey in San Jose and London this fall (intranet conferences) and see how / if perception differs from continent to continent.