What took you so long? Craigslist begins translating its site

Craig Newmark announced that Craigslist has begun adding support for additional languages. There are five languages so far: Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese (Brazil), and French (Canada or France or both; he doesn’t specify).

In 2004, Craigslist began offering sites for cities such as Paris and Tokyo. I thought it odd at the time that Craigslist wasn’t translating anything, but the argument could be made that the Web sites were directed at expats more so than locals.

Then in 2005, eBay launched Kijiji in an effort to out-Craigslist Craigslist. I noted then that Kijiji was doing one thing right — actually localizing its sites for users around the world, with varying degrees of success. Kijiji also marked eBay’s re-entrance into Japan after closing eBay Japan a few years prior.

So here we are in 2008 and Craigslist is doing some translating. I’m certainly happy to see it though I get the feeling that Craigslist has more important issues to contend with these days. I used to visit the site fairly regularly but now find it so loaded with scam artists that I don’t find it to be a very credible source for much at all.

Regarding translation, it’s worth checking out Craigslist Berlin to get a vivid demonstration of text expansion in action. The width of the page expands dramatically as English is translated into German, as shown here:

Craigslist Berline

Fortunately, Craigslist uses a text-based design so the page simply expands to accommodate the text. Had the text been embedded within visuals, the localization could have been a bit trickier.

It will be interesting to see how many languages Craigslist adds over the next year. And now that Craigslist is multilingual, I will be evaluating it in next year’s Web Globalization Report Card.

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