Google Translate is Finished. Again.

We’ve heard this before. This time it’s somewhat truer. Google Translate itself (http://translate.google.com/) isn’t finished, but the API allowing third-party developers to use Google Translate as a service is. Google Translate in its own right will continue.

Google has deprecated the API because of excessive abuse (presumably from people using it to manipulate search results through mass translation of web content). The reaction from developers has been pretty hostile (see the comments). The translation industry, on the other hand, has stayed smugly silent, save for a few posts about the API demise and how it might impact existing professional tools, impact on the language industry, and so on. How sad. Nobody really wins in this, I think.

Personally, I feel this move is a big loss to the world’s information-sharing efforts. Google Translate API is widely used by web and mobile app developers, and it is really playing a role in translating that explosion of community content that we hear about.

On top of all that, a bigger question remains: What developer–operating in the globalization space or otherwise–will trust using these (or indeed other) APIs in their development efforts again? Will existing uptake now have to back out Google Translate in favor of another API solution by end of the year?

The Google Translate service isn’t all that bad for the free translation of non-domain specific content and general use when your life didn’t depend on it, but your purchase or vacation might. My position was that Google Translate offered as a service directly, or through website and mobile apps, isn’t an alternative to the paid translation variant but the alternative to no translation at all. And that is what many will now get for a while: No translation at all.

I guess Bing Translator and other solutions will win out in the API space now. However, I am sure that we have not heard the last from Google in the automated information translation–as a service–space…though you may have to pay something for it…

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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