In January 2008, Facebook launched its first non-English version, Spanish. But it also opened the door to dozens more by unveiling a crowdsourcing translation application that enables its users to translate Facebook into their own languages. The app, at Facebook.com/translations, enables users to translate snippets of Facebook text, such as "view their photos" or "profile information last updated 1 hour ago." Other translators then vote the snippets up or down. When enough of the interface has been translated, and after a review by outside consultants, it goes live on Facebook.
Developing the next languages showed how much power Facebook has when it taps into its own network of users, says John Yunker, co-owner of the Web globalization consulting firm Byte Level Research, in Ashland, Ore. "It took just a day to get Facebook translated into French," Yunker says. "That’s how quickly they got the audience to participate."
A story for the June 2011 issue of IEEE Spectrum magazine