Will Facebook become the world’s largest translation platform?

Techcrunch reports from Facebook’s developer conference today in which company announced that it would open its “crowdsourcing” translation platform to its legion of application developers. Here’s the press release excerpt:

As a result of the worldwide success of Facebook’s translation system, the company has opened up the Translation Application to any developer using Facebook Platform. Beginning today, any Facebook developer can make their application available in any of the 20 languages that are currently available on Facebook, with 69 more coming soon.

Developers can now access the Translation Application to either translate their applications themselves, or open up translation of their application to Facebook users around the world, who will work together to define it in their native languages.

Developers are naturally very excited about this development because they can tap into the same group of enthusiastic volunteers who are currently translating Facebook’s interface into different languages. Or, developers can pay translators or agencies to do the translation.

Facebook knows that part of the value of its platform are the third-party applications. As I mentioned a few days ago, I was concerned that so many of Apple’s iPhone apps are currently in English only. And it’s safe to say that Apple is nowhere close to launching anything similar to what Facebook is now doing.

As Facebook goes global with its platform, it wants all of its 400,000 developers (more than half of which live outside of the US) to come along as well. Opening up the translation platform is a win-win for everyone.

And we could see Facebook’s translation platform become a force onto itself.

It will be interesting to see what role translation agencies and freelance translators will play. I see a nice opportunity, because some of these app developers will want to pay a premium to have professional translators involved.

PS: Techcrunch also shares some data on Facebook’s global traffic growth — a sign that this translation program is perfectly timed.

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Author: John Yunker

John co-founded Byte Level Research in 2000 and is author of The Web Globalization Report Card. He also co-founder of Ashland Creek Press.

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