Facebook Releases Website Translation Tool to Developers

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-09-30

Facebook Sept. 30 took its software tool for letting users all over the world translate the social network into other languages and made it available free to developers.

That tool, Translations for Facebook Connect, is based on the Translations application Facebook released in January 2008 to let users translate Facebook into more than 65 languages.

Website translation is a tough task at any level because programmers have to account for several variables, such as strange phrases, complex sentence structures and slang expressions.

In releasing the tool to programmers to use for their own Website translations, Facebook is extending an olive branch to the 15,000 Websites or apps that work with Facebook Connect, which lets users bring their profile information and other content outside of the social network.

Translations for Facebook Connect works juts like the original Translations app. Users click on a phrase as they browse the Website and vote on translations suggested by their peers or contribute their own. Translations for Facebook Connect will translate a Website, IFrame or FBML-based application into any of the languages Facebook currently supports.

"For example, with Translations for Facebook Connect, country tourist boards or travel sites that want to attract foreign visitors on holiday can use this framework to translate their sites and automatically present the content to users in their native language after they log in with Facebook Connect," explained Facebook Connect programmer Cat Lee.

Developers can start using Translations for Facebook Connect to translate Web sites or apps with an HTML file and a few lines of JavaScript in less than an hour. Developers can submit content to the Translations application by calling the intl.uploadNativeStrings API method, and retrieve submitted and translated content through the intl.getTranslations API method and translation FQL table.

Once content is registered for translation, the developer and his or her Web site users can start translating the site's content just as users helped translate Facebook. Lee recommends programmers read the documentation on the Developer Wiki, which provides detailed instructions.

Facebook regularly offers new features for end users, which number more than 300 million and comprise the lifeblood of the social network. But Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is a programmer himself and so it makes sense that his developer team has been increasingly getting cozier with programmers that want to write social applications.

For example, Facebook scored major points with programmers earlier this month after  releasing the Tornado Web server acquired in the company's FriendFeed acquisition to open source.

This is a smart move for a company that wants to serve as the starting point from which programmers extend the social Web. Offering free a translation tool is one way to help Facebook broaden its appeal to programmers on the international stage. Ideally, these programmers will help extend Facebook Connect to the masses with new applications.

In related news, Facebook today also released the Facebook Connect Wizard to let nonprogrammers connect to the service in three steps, and Playground for Facebook Connect, which helps users add profile pictures, user names and friends to a Web site.

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