Twitter launches translation crowdsourcing, again

Twitter went live with its newly updated translation center today. This is the second iteration of the platform; it first launched in October 2009, but was closed less than a year after for an overhaul.

I gave it a quick tour. A number of people were complaining (via Twitter naturally) about the slowness of the site. But it was fast enough on my end.

There are nine target languages as of today (six of which are already live). The three new languages are¬†Indonesian, Russian, and Turkish. It’s fascinating to see Indonesian and Turkish as part of this first batch of languages — ahead of, say, Dutch or Swedish. Twitter is simply going where the users are — and Twitter is HUGE in Indonesia and Turkey.

Also, not surprisingly, Chinese is NOT on the list of target languages.

Overall, I liked the new design. The language translation interface is similar in many ways to Facebook’s UI. But what I found most intriguing (see above) as how the home page segments the text strings by platform (Android, Twitter.com, iPhone) as well as audience and content type (Business, Open Source, and Help).

If you’re wondering why Twitter.com text strings are handled differently than iPhone text strings, consider the platforms. On a PC, you have a good deal more real estate to work with. On a mobile device, you may only have a fraction of that real estate, which would require a much-shorter text string. So you could have the same message translated differently depending on the target device or application.

Finally, I thought I’d share the “opt in” text that Twitter presents potential volunteer translators. I like the fact that Twitter is up front with users in that they are giving away their time and text for free. Though I’m not sure how Twitter plans to enforce the confidentiality rule:

  • Since you’ll be helping out Twitter (thanks again!) we want to let you know our ground rules. Please read the full agreement below before continuing. Here are some of the things you can expect to see:
  • We may show you confidential, yet to be released products or features and you must be willing to keep those secret.
  • You’ll be volunteering to help out Twitter and will not be paid.
  • Twitter owns the rights to the translations you provide. You are giving them to us so that we can use them however we want. Among other things, Twitter plans to share the translations with the Twitter development community. We want to help make all of the other great Twitter apps, not just Twitter.com, available in your language.

Now that Twitter has its new platform, will it match the record set by Facebook awhile back — translating 70 languages in less than 18 months?

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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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