India: Growing like crazy and craving local-language content

Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins released her 2017 Internet Trends report today — the mother of all PowerPoint decks. I last commented on the 2014 deck.

A few slides jumped out at me this year — as part of her in-depth focus on India — noting that 46% of India’s Internet users primarily consume local-language content.

This number if higher than I would have guessed and underscores a point I’ve been making for several years now —  the days of assuming you can succeed in India supporting only English are coming to a close.

Google and Facebook got the memo quite some time ago and now support a significant number of India’s 29 official languages. But the question is: When with the rest of the global brands get the memo?

After all, India is now the fastest-growing large market and with plenty of room to grow.

 

According to the 2017 Web Globalization Report Card, just 6% of the world’s leading brands support Hindi, which is the most popular of the Indic languages.  Close behind are Urdu and Tamil.

Amazon is investing heavily in this market, no doubt trying to avoid the many missteps it made trying (and largely failing) to dominate China’s ecommerce market. Did you know that last fall Amazon celebrated India’s Festival of Lights?

India added more than 100 million web users in 2016, more than any other country.

If you have time, check out the full deck. Yes, there are more than 300 slides, but they’re a quick read and I guarantee you’ll learn something. I sure did!

PS: I’ve included a section on India in my new book Think Outside the Country.

NOTO, as in No Tofu

First of all, I love tofu.

But when you see it on a computer screen, it’s not so nice.

Like those two rows of “tofu-shaped” objects shown below that indicate a missing font:

tofu3

Tofu used to be a much bigger problem ten years ago, back when fonts are strictly aligned with different character sets and computers shipped with very limited font families. Today, computers and phones ship with system fonts that can natively display a significant number of languages.

Nevertheless, as websites support more and more languages, the need for fully world-ready fonts will only grow.

So it’s nice to see Google investing in creating open-source font faces to support the world’s languages.

This font family is called NOTO (as in no tofu).

google_noto

A package of all 100+ fonts weighs more than 470MB.

Instead, you might pick and choose which language/script you wish to support:

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-4-13-30-pm

This post is brought to you by the Multilingual Eye Chart.

 

Google Translate: Ten Years Later

translate

I remember when Google Translate went live. Hard to believe it was 10 years ago.

I remember thinking that this relatively new technology, known as Statistical Machine Translation (SMT), was going to change everything.

At the time, many within the translation community were dismissive of Google Translate. Some viewed it as a passing phase. Very few people said that machine translation would ever amount to much more than a novelty.

But I wasn’t convinced that this was a novelty. As I wrote in 2007 I believed that the technologists were taking over the translation industry:

SMT is not by itself going to disrupt the translation industry. But SMT, along with early adopter clients (by way of the Translation Automation Users Society), and the efforts of Google, are likely to change this industry in ways we can’t fully grasp right now.

Here’s a screen grab of Google Translate from 2006, back when Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Arabic were still in BETA:

google_translate_May2006

Growth in languages came in spurts, but roughly at a pace of 10 languages per year.

google_translate_growth

And here is a screen grab today:

google_translate_May2016

 

Google Translate has some impressive accomplishments to celebrate:

  • 103 languages supported
  • 100 billion words translated per day
  • 500 million users around the world
  • Most common translations are between English and Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Portuguese and Indonesian
  • Brazilians are the heaviest users of Google Translate
  • 3.5 million people have made 90 million contributions through the Google Translate Community

 

The success of Google Translate illustrates that we will readily accept poor to average translations versus no translations at all. 

To be clear, I’m not advocating that companies use machine translation exclusively. Machine translation can go from utilitarian to ugly when it comes to asking someone to purchase something. If anything, machine translation has shown to millions of people just how valuable professional translators truly are. 

But professional translators simply cannot translate 100 billion words per day.

Many large companies now use machine translation, some translating several billion words per month.

Companies like Intel, Microsoft, Autodesk, and Adobe now offer consumer-facing machine translation engines. Many other companies are certain to follow.

Google’s investment in languages and machine translation has been a key ingredient to its consistent position as the best global website according to the annual Report Card.

Google Translate has taken translation “to the people.” It has opened doors and eyes and raised language expectations around the world.

I’m looking forward to the next 10 years.