What’s Next After the Google Translate API?

Guest Author
Jun. 16 2011, 12:00AM EDT

This guest post comes from Matthew Romaine, CTO of MyGengo, the simplest way to get affordable human translation at high scale, using a global network of 2,500+ translators connected via a flexible translation API.

By now you've probably heard the thunderclap that just went round the API ecosphere – Google is deprecating a host of APIs. After years of building developers' trust in their platform, Google is effectively pulling the rug out from under many services built not only for commercial means, but for non-profit and educational causes too.

However, after an onslaught of comments following the announcement to close Google's Translate API due to “system abuse”, the company seems to be reconsidering and has mentioned launching with a paid translation offering. After all, developers, who have built any number of fun and useful services relying on this API, are an influential and lucrative group.

So what does this all mean? And what alternatives exist today?

While Google's API service announcement is disconcerting to many, it’s serving to shake up the space in a host of positive ways and draw more attention to experts that focus solely on translation (and not search and advertising and email and web apps and…well you get the idea).

What Developers Have to Lose

Nobody likes to write wasteful code. Developers always appreciate being told about product roadmaps for third party systems to ensure proper planning. Unfortunately the roadmap for Google’s Translate API has not been clear, and despite the recent visibility isn’t any clearer. Developers will have to seek a patchwork of solutions after December this year when the free version of Google’s Translate API officially shuts down. While Google recently retracted to announce a paid-version to launch in the future, this wishy-washy process hasn’t exactly garnered much trust. It’s one thing to introduce a paid-plan for a service offered originally for free. But Google doesn’t always think that way nor do they have an extensive history of licensing their APIs, which led them to their original conclusion to shut APIs down. The handling of this case doesn’t leave many of us optimistic that Google will execute well here either.

How To Benefit from the Many Options

So if you've been thinking about – or are now forced to – incorporate translation in some fashion as a feature for your users, it couldn't be a better time to explore other free and paid services. Don’t make the same mistake twice; this time, go with an entity for whom translation is a core part of the business. Some translation providers have incorporated a technology strategy with a focus on low system integration costs for working directly with them. With these low “switching costs,” developers can now partner with reliable translation providers to get a host of improvements and benefits compared with machine translation.

A leading benefit is to focus less on any quality price tradeoff. Improvements in technology have allowed for increasingly reasonable rates on human translation – meaning one shouldn’t have to sacrifice quality and localization for price anymore.

Another benefit is service. The beauty in some human translation platforms that can be integrated much like machine translation is just that – the human on the other end. While machine translation won’t allow for revisions, human-based platforms allow users to request edits based on new information or clarifications in the original content.

A third benefit in integrating with a translation-focused service is access to the additional information and best practices as executed by globally-minded participants. Translation platforms strong in technology do much more that goes beyond translation – they are a 360 degree partner that knows the ins and outs of going global.

What to Look for in a Translation Partner

Once you’re ready to work with a translation platform that serves only to improve - and not shutdown – its core offering, be sure to ask yourself these five important questions before engaging with a new partner:

  1. 1. Is translation the firm’s primary business line and does it help educate customers on what to do next after your website, app, email campaign or even menu has been translated?
  2. 2. What is your tolerance for the Native Sense Gap (NSG) – a term we coined to understand the difference between what a machine translation produces and what a native speaker can understand?
  3. 3. How extensive is the human translator network and what are their operating hours and other limitations?
  4. 4. How easy is it to switch from machine to human translation (and back again) whenever you need to?
  5. 5. Is the machine plus human API adaptive? Does it get smarter as more customers use the system and how rigorous is the process by which native speakers test in to become translators?
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