Two days after Google made their dramatic announcement that they were shutting down their Translate API, Microsoft made an announcement of their own (click here to read the full announcement).
We released an update to the Microsoft Translator service today, changing the previously enforced throughput limits. For the vast majority of our API users, this change has increased the throughput limits.
As a side note: the Microsoft Translator API is here to stay.
The MT team, headed by Chris Wendt, is part of Microsoft Research. Read more about this group here. Microsoft has taken a much more solid, less hyped approach to MT than their flamboyant competitor, Google Translate. Microsoft has even scored a few industry firsts, such as the release of the first Haitian Creole MT. And as I reported in a previous GTS blog post, Microsoft was the first company to release English to Japanese and Korean TTS.
Microsoft is well positioned to take a leadership position in MT. Microsoft had been involved in computational linguistic research well before Google was even conceived. Microsoft has an incredible wealth of knowledge in the language industry, having developed grammar and spelling checkers in many languages; and having localized software products in hundreds of languages. With the huge installed base of MS Office , Microsoft has a powerful channel in which it can promote new translation and language solutions. Indeed, Microsoft MT is deeply integrated with MS Office 2010.
Unlike Google, Microsoft already offers commercial licenses for its Translator API. And as I mentioned in a previous blog post, they can provide custom MT server solutions for enterprises. MS does have less languages than Google, currently with about 34 languages. But I would expect that number to increase soon.
Image via CrunchBase
My first post on Google’s decision to shut down its immensely popular Translate API was the most retweeted and most highly read GTS Blog post ever. I should also mention that I started a discussion on Linkedin which received comments by some pretty important people in the MT industry like Alon Lavie, Manuel Heranz and Jeff Allen. It’s worth checking out.
Now that the dust is starting to settle, here are a few more thoughts on this topic.
- Translate API wasn’t the only language API to be deprecated. Google depracated its entire Language API family. This includes Transliterate, Virtual Keyboard and Diacrtitize.
- The order to kibosh Translate API must have come from the top: Google’s CEO Larry Page. Since Page took over CEO duties from Eric Schmidt about one month ago, reports have it that he is much more focused on products and technology. I’m guessing that Larry did not feel that Translate API is part of that focus.
- Google shut down Translate API because of the economic burden caused by extensive abuse. How heavy was the economic burden? Nobody can say for sure (and Google is keeping quiet about it), but I have a few theories. Consensus seems to be that Translate API was used for massive translation of websites for manipulation of SEO. If that is true, then the worldwide web became a much bigger place. Which means that Google needs to crawl and index many more pages than ever before. This not only means more storage capacity, but would also result in slower response times to search queries. Not to mention the number of servers Google needs to maintain to field all of those translation queries.
- Extensive abuse. People were flagrantly abusing Google’s generosity and not even giving them credit for it. I mean companies did not put a ‘Powered by Google’ in their applications, did not link back to Google. But it was even worse. Companies were taking translations from Google for free and charging money for it. We have a term for that in Yiddish: it is called being a ‘chazer.’
- Preempting the competition. It is no secret that Google is competing with Facebook in the online advertising space. Google Android is also competing with some other smartphones on the market. By providing a free Translate API, Google was allowing third-party developers to make translation applications for competitive products. It really makes no sense for Google if you think about it. Why give the competition an edge? By cancelling Translate API, Google can take control and keep the best translation applications for their own use.
- The large LSPs ain’t dumb. SDL bought Language Weaver last year. Lionbridge entered into an agreement with IBM (Geofluent). These companies will restore the dominance in the MT segment to where it belonged in the first place. Leadership in translation technology should be maintained by translation companies, not by a search engine company.
- Google Translate wasn’t the only free translation API. Apertium, Ta with you and Microsoft Translator offer free APIs. But if there is anything that Google’s shutdown of Translate API has taught us, it is not to build a product plan around a free API which may not be free or may even be gone in the near future.
- Is Google Translate Toolkit API next? The GTT API is currently restricted, and Google says it has no plans to remove it. Does that sound familar?
That’s all for now. If you have anything to add, please leave a comment.
On May 26, Google announced that it will be shutting down its Translate API as of the end of 2011. The Translate API is software that allows websites and software programs to interact programatically with Google Translate. In the simplest terms, the Translate API allowed companies to develop products which dispensed free translations by courtesy of Google.
Since the Translate API was released a few years ago, hundreds of companies developed software products around the free translations that Google provided. One of these products is Ortsbo. When a user asks for a translation in Ortsbo, the request is sent to Google servers which then send the translation back to Ortsbo.
The widespread use of the free translations exacted a heavy financial toll on Google. So much so, that Google decided to shut down the service and end the free ride. All of the hundreds of companies that hitchhiked on Google’s generosity will have some decisions to make. They can either seek alternative translation options, or abandon their product. The problems with seeking alternative translation options are that:
- Fewer languages: Google leads the field with over 50 languages; other machine translations support much fewer languages.
- Translation quality: Google arguably has the best quality among machine translation systems.
- Cost: alternative translation solutions are unlikely to be free. And switching translation suppliers will also lead to extra product development costs. Indeed, I anticipate that many of the free products which are based around free Google translations will cease to exist.
What will Ortsbo do? Now that Google is shutting down, which translation system will they use? How much money will they need to spend to switch? How will it impact their business model? These are questions which INT stockholders should be asking.
I’m rubbing my eyes and reading this over and over again. Google is shutting down its Translate API. Read it here.
Important: The Google Translate API has been officially deprecated as of May 26, 2011. Due to the substantial economic burden caused by extensive abuse, the number of requests you may make per day will be limited and the API will be shut off completely on December 1, 2011. For website translations, we encourage you to use the Google Translate Element.
Google decided to shut down its Translate as part of a spring cleaning effort which will shut down over a dozen other APIs as well.
What does this mean? Well all of those ‘free’ programs that hitchhiked on Google Translate are going to be history. What about SDL Trados Studio, which also provides access to Google Translate via the Translate API? Will that service be shut down too? It sounds like it will. But SDL offers two other MT options anyway (Language Weaver and SDL), so it’s not such a big deal for them.
This is dramatic news. Google has acknowledged that the cost of giving away free translations is too much. My guess is that they will eventually offer paid access to their translation services for high volume users.
MT vendors are going to profit from this. Now that the biggest source of free translation is soon to be gone, demand for MT software will increase.
What does this signal to the software development community? People will think twice in future before developing a service or product around a Google API. Lots of startups and companies are going to get burned.
Will this affect our own GTS Translation Plugin? No it won’t. I purposely stayed away from the Google Translate API because I saw something like this coming. I suppose this is great news for us, as most of the other free website translation products will cease to exist in their present form.
Today’s blog post will try to provide some insight into building a custom MT environment with Systran Training Server 7. Are you ready? Here goes: Continue reading