Cinderella night for Google Translate API Users

Anyone remember the Y2K scare? For months leading up to the new millennium, the news media brought us lurid predictions of the havoc which would be wreaked by the Y2K effect. Would planes fall out of the sky? Would the pumps at the gas stations stop working? The power grid? Would the bank computers know how much money we have? Lots of people, myself included, were worried and waited in anticipation for the clock to strike midnight on 1.1.2000.

Why am I bringing this up? Well tonight may be doomsday for developers who built applications around the Google Translate API, and users of those applications. In it’s announcement last May, Google announced that it would be terminating its free Translate API service.

 The courtesy limit for existing Translate API v2 projects created prior to August 24, 2011 will be reduced to zero on December 1, 2011. In addition, the number of requests your application can make per day will be limited. Google Translate API v1 will be shut off completely on the same date (December 1, 2011).

So tonight is the night. Just like in the story of Cinderella, the fair maiden must leave by midnight or be revealed as a chambermaid. But will she leave a glass slipper behind? Will the prince be able to find the fair maiden with the only foot to fit the slipper?

What will happen to all of the applications that run on the free Google translations? Will the translations stop working? Will we start to see a Google message that says “this website needs a different google api key” (like it does for Google Maps)? Will the developers who switched to the Microsoft Translator API need to discontinue some of the languages (since Google has some language pairs that Microsoft does not). Will some developers start to charge money for automatic translation services? I’ll be on the lookout for answers to these questions and I hope you will too. Please report anything you see.

Another issue I am interested in is security. Now that Google is charging for use of its API, will hackers try and target the API? A blog post I just saw warns against this very eventuality. Will some clever developer find a way to spam the (still) free Google translation website and mine the translations for free? Will Google be able to clamp down on this? These are questions which will be interesting to learn more about as the events unfold.

Will Transperfect merge with Motionpoint?

Can Transperfect save Worldlingo? is the title of a post I wrote last week about Transperfect’s acquisition of Internet translation company Worldlingo. Alex Buran, CEO of Translation Services USA, enlightened us with the following comment on my post.

Most likely Transperfect is buying patents. They are in the middle of a lawsuit with Motionpoint and perhaps, need more substance to win the case.

(Read more here)

Worldlingo has many patents related to online ordering systems and website translation.

I did not know of this lawsuit and it sheds a whole different light on the deal.

In reading over the lawsuit, I found the timeline to be interesting. Transperfect had bought the patents from Worldingo almost one year ago. They filed suit against Motionpoint in January, 2011. The patent infringement complaint filed in California is dated September, 2011. But the Worldlingo deal was only announced in November, 2011. Why did it take so long for Transperfect to announce the Worldingo acquisition deal? Did they initially just buy the patents and only then decide to buy the whole company? Did the due dilligence on the deal take that many months to complete?

Another very interesting point: in its complaint, Transperfect has laid the legal groundwork to sue end customers for using Motionpoint website translation technology. Some of the companies named in the complaint are Pizza Hut and Best Buy.

One thing is for certain: this is a dirty fight started by Transperfect over control of the website translation market in the USA. Motionpoint is one of the fastest growing companies in the USA and is handling website translation for many of the largest companies (Fortune 500) in the country. Read an interesting interview here by Will Fleming, Motionpoint CEO who describes Motionpoint technology in basic terms.

Transperfect obviously wants to stop Motionpoint but is apparently losing ground in the fight. So what do they do? Buy intellectual property and start a patent war. TP probably has deeper pockets than Motionpoint and can bleed Motionpoint to death in a lawsuit that will take years to settle. Legal costs will be huge for both sides. In the meantime, Transperfect sales people can tell customers that Motionpoint is in alleged violation of TP patents and that if they choose Motionpoint as their vendor that they too may have to pay Transperfect for patent infringement. So they had better select TP as their website translation vendor. Pretty devious and ingenious, wouldn’t you say? But as the French saying goes, a la guerre comme a la guerre (translation: in war anything goes).

But the ideal end game for Transperfect would be to buy Motionpoint and merge their activity into The patent infringement lawsuit would give them an advantage in the negotiation. If TP would buy Motionpoint it would sure give them a dominant position in the USA website translation market. And Transperfect CEO Liz Elting would love that.

Follow Friday. What does it mean?

What is Follow Friday? I never quite understood it. Is that Twitterese for Shabbat Shalom? Shabbat Shalom is the traditional Hebrew greeting that a Jew proffers to coreligionists on the Sabbath. What does Shabbat Shalom mean? Shalom means ‘peace,’ but in this context it means ‘Hello.’ But would Shabbat Shalom then mean ‘Sabbath Hello?’ That sounds weird. What it really means is ‘have a nice Sabbath.’ European and US Jews tend to just say “Good Shabbos.’


Is that what follow Friday means? That I’m telling my fellow Twitter users to enjoy the weekend? If so, then why not use the hashtag #EtW (Enjoy the Weekend)? By using #FF I think what people are saying is “enjoy the weekend and follow so-and-so she/he is a great gal/guy.” And that’s what I don’t get. Should I follow someone just because someone adds the #FF hashtag in front of her/his Twitter handle. I think that Twitter following should be based on your own interests, not on a cute game that someone invented (click here to see Mashable’s definition of #FF here).

Let’s get back to Shabbat for a moment. Friday’s in the winter are special for observant Jews as nightfall (which marks the start of the Sabbath) comes in very early. So if you work with Orthodox Jews you may notice that they tend to disappear early on Fridays in the winter. Not that they are slacking off, just that they need to get home on time. And since nobody wants to slack, they usually leave work at the last possible moment and get home in time for a quick shower, shave (if you are a man obviously), then dress in your best clothes and go to synagogue (or Shul in the vernacular). Upon returning home, we have a  sumptuous feast of fish, meat, wine-the works. It’s very nice and beats work any time.

Now back to Twitter again. I’ve been on Twitter for a little over two years now. I have about 940 followers. So anything I write on Twitter is broadcast to that group of followers. And since my following is pretty focused, I know that my tweets are highly targeted. But all of these get Twitch quick schemes-including Follow Friday-may widen my following to a point where my messages will get less targeted, will have a lesser impact. So for now I will continue to build a following the slow way, by writing quality blog posts, by finding information that my followers like to have, by growing smarter about our industry and attaining valuable knowledge which is equivalent to power.

In ending, I would like to wish all of my Twitter buddies a happy Friday. Shabbat Shalom. Dave

Microsoft’s Bookmarklet enables single-click translation on any browser

Microsoft has released a translation bookmarklet which allows single-click translation of any website in your own browser. How does it work? Just go to the Microsoft Language Labs website, select the language you want to translate to and drag it to your browser’s bookmark toolbar. After you install it, you can translate any website into the selected language with one click of the bookmark. If you want to have single-click access to website translation in a few languages, no problem. You can use this tool to create more than one translation bookmark on your browser.

Microsoft Translation Bookmarklet

Microsoft Translation Bookmarklet

What’s the big deal? There is none. All of the browsers already have plugins that allow single-click website translation. And website translation has always been one or two clicks away (by going to Google or Microsoft and pasting in the websites URL). Additionally, there are plugins that can detect the language of a website and translate it to your own language automatically. (The auto-detect and translation feature was made available in the GTS Translation plugin version 1.2.0).

But I find this move to be encouraging nonetheless, as it shows that Microsoft is trying to make inroads to the consumer by providing free translation tools that are useful. And by providing these tools, Microsoft will build a strong following for its translation system and make it a worthy competitor to Google. We the people can only benefit from this trend.

Can Transperfect save Worldlingo?

In translation industry news: Transperfect is continuing its shopping spree by acquiring Worldlingo, the company that pioneered the Internet translation industry (read the news here).

Worldingo was founded in the late 1990s by Australian Phil Scanlan, an independently wealthy and very shrewd business person. Mr. Scanlan did a few things that caused Worldlingo to prosper. He purchased a Systran Enterprise Server 5 system and started selling machine translation solutions for websites years before anyone had even dreamed about doing it. He gave away free website translation widgets that linked back to the Worldlingo site. This gave Worldlingo number 1 ranking in nearly every keyword phrase associated with translation. And he made a deal with Microsoft that integrated Worldingo into every Microsoft Office product software license so when someone asked for translation from Microsoft Word, for example, they received the free translation from Worldlingo.

All of this gave Worldlingo total domination of the search engines for years. And they made a ton of money. But since then a few things have happened: (1) Phil Scanlan left Worldlingo in pursuit of other endeavors. (2) Microsoft dumped Worldlingo in favor of their own MT which is now integrated in MS Office. (3) Google and Microsoft offer free translation widgets so who needs Worldingo for that? (4) Worldlingo stagnated with outdated Systran 5 technology and left it there for years. Only about 2 years ago did they integrate Language Weaver into their website. (5) Many new companies have started to resell MT solutions and Worldlingo is now just one of several in the field. (6) Worldlingo has been dropping like crazy in the search engine rankings and is continuing to lose ground. And Worldlingo lives on Internet traffic.

Which leads us to Transperfect. What are they buying? MT technology? Worldlingo does not have any proprietary MT technology that I know of and licenses software from MT vendors. Customers? Customer loyalty in the online world is fickle (how can you be loyal to a website?). Worldlingo does have a very snazzy online ordering system. But they now face stiff competition from other online translation companies like Babylon and MyGengo. The software solutions they are selling for website translation are outdated and now face stiff competition from companies like ToLingo and Smartling.

The main asset which Transperfect is buying, in my opinion, is a (still) strong online presence. Something that Transperfect is lacking. The question is: will Transperfect breath new life into Worldlingo? Will they integrate new technology which will revive the website and make it a dominant player in face of all the new competition? Will they pump in funds to improve the site in face of the growing competition in the online translation world? Will they be able to help Worldlingo stop their online decline?

Transperfect’s acquisition policy, to the best of my knowledge, is to let the management continue to do their own thing after the deal has been made. The big question is: will that save Worldlingo?