Facebook likes Microsoft. Chooses Bing API to power translation

The Inside Facebook blog reported last week that Facebook is testing a Translate button for comments on pages. With the introduction of this new feature, comments that are written in languages other than your account’s default language now include a Translate button next to them. When you click on the Translate button, the comment is automatically translated to your default language. The Translate button is then replaced by an Original button which untranslates the comment.

I have learned that this service will be provided through the Microsoft Translation API. Facebook will not be using a self-developed machine translation for this service. At least not at this point.

Microsoft is fast becoming the ‘go-to’ translation API player. Since Google deprecated their free API and turned it into a paid service, developers are abandoning Google and using Bing instead. Microsoft has stressed over the past few months that they will make no changes to their free translation API and have even increased user limits to make it even more attractive to developers.

Another major software company that went with the Bing Translation API is Autodesk, recently releasing TransTips for AutoCAD, Inventor, Revit, and 3ds MaxThis plugin translates the contents of tooltips in various Autodesk products automatically into one of 35+ languages via the Bing translation API.

The cooperation between Facebook and Microsoft should come as no surprise to anyone. Microsoft is a minor shareholder in Facebook, having bought 1.6% of the company shares for $240 Million back in 2007. I tried to get more information from Microsoft about this new cooperation with Facebook but could not get any information. I can assume with great certainty however, that the terms of the cooperation were discussed at a high level and that Microsoft will provide specially trained MT engines to Facebook at some point in time.

I also tried to obtain more information from Ghassan Haddad, Director of Internationalization at Facebook. I’ll report back with any new information I can obtain.

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Microsoft counters Google with new free translation tools

Google has been very active in the machine translation space with new languages and language tools being rolled out at frequent intervals. But Microsoft has been busy too, as it appears, and is not ready to concede this key vertical to Google. The Microsoft Translator (http://www.microsofttranslator.com/) has been updated with new language pairs and now includes Hebrew which did not exist previously. It also presents web pages that were translated in Bing in side-by-side format and allows you to translate the same page into any of the languages offered by the service without reloading. 


Microsoft Translator side-by-side view

Microsoft Translator side-by-side view



It is encouraging to see that the major search engine companies are trying hard to make the Internet a global place by making content available in many languages. Of course what is foremost on their minds is maximizing the amount of content delivered to users in order to boost advertising revenues.