Select Language(s): Facebook takes language settings to the next level

Facebook is updating its user profile page (profiled in-depth here) and one of the changes is to ask users to self-select one or more languages.

Facebook already looks at the user’s web browser for an indication of what language he/she prefers, but this is far from a perfect solution. Having the user self-select languages allows Facebook to do some fairly nifty things when it comes to aligning users (suggested friends, interests, etc.) — and, of course, improving ad targeting. It remains to be seen what Facebook does with these multilingual user profiles.

My friends must wonder how I’ve sudden become so multilingual as I’ve been playing with this feature. Here’s my current list of languages (Spanglish included):

And here’s how these languages are presented on my profile:

Notice the globe icon!

Thankfully, Facebook is correctly using a globe icon to indicate languages. Now perhaps Facebook will kill the globe icon for notifications (something I’ve been critical of before). Facebook now uses the globe icon for three different features on its portal — something’s gotta give.

That said, I like that Facebook is making languages a high-level profile feature.

Multilingual web users are an important segment of the Internet. In my experiences, I have found that these users tend to be very key proselytizers of social networking services — and I’m sure Facebook is well aware of this as well.

Properly supporting multilingual users is an important step forward and one that I believe other companies will attempt to duplicate in the years ahead.

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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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