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.