Facebook’s population is the third largest in the world – how does translation help their mission to make the world more connected?

Since its inception, Facebook’s mission has always been to make the world more open and connected. This was reiterated recently in an open letter to potential investors from founder Mark Zuckerberg, where he stated that:

Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected.

He goes on to explain that the internet now offers us an unprecedented opportunity to bring the world together, bridging borders and dissolving differences in race, nationality and religious beliefs. Zuckerberg believes that Facebook has the potential to strengthen how people relate to each other, improve how they connect to businesses and the economy and change how people relate to their governments and social institutions. But how do Zuckerberg and Facebook plan to overcome the language barrier?

In October last year, Facebook introduced a new tool that allows users to translate posts and comments on pages with a single click. Now, this feature has appeared on personal profiles too. This instant inline translation tool, powered by Microsoft Bing, differs from more popular translation tools such as Google Translate because it allows users to translate text as it appears, rather than copying, pasting and translating isolated words or sentences.

Although Facebook’s translation feature was initially criticised for its lack of accuracy, it has since made attempts to rectify this by giving users the opportunity to enter a more accurate translation in a pop-out window. If enough people vote positively on the accuracy of a human translation, this translation will replace Bing’s offering. Page owners can control the translations that appear on their page by using a “manage translations” link underneath posts or comments.

It will take a long time for technology to catch up with human translation, but whilst it still has teething problems, it’s great to see the social networks such as Facebook and Twitter (which utilises Google Translate) making attempts to introduce translation features for their rapidly growing populations. Maybe in ten, twenty or even thirty years time, we will see the true power of a global social network that allows humans to communicate instantly and effectively without the barriers of national languages?

What do you think?