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 (4) Worldlingo stagnated with outdated Systran 5 technology and left it there for years.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 The software solutions they are selling for website translation are outdated and now face stiff competition from companies like ToLingo and Smartling.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?