We got word recently that Nestoria (a housing search tool) released a Facebook app designed exclusively for Spanish speakers. The app itself (there’s an English-language UK version as well) seems to do what it claims to, though I’m personally unsure what advantage potential users will see this Facebook-integrated version of housing search as having, over simply visiting external sites.
More interesting to me is that this Spanish app looks like it’s the first of its kind, in terms of its being an app developed specifically for a language that Facebook doesn’t officially support. Seeing as Facebook has not bothered to make localized versions of its entire interface (although it appears they are planning to do so, according to an Internationalization Team job description), foreign users have had to deal with an essentially Anglophone social network. Since social networking in general is largely about creating a virtual identity and connecting with others via that identity, it seems restrictive for it to be housed in a foreign linguistic structure, however much the content is freely modifiable.
With the advent of the Platform, it becomes possible to have what are essentially almost-fully-localized versions of Facebook, and without any effort on the part of Facebook itself. A Spanish iLike, A German “Extended Info”, A Greek “Top Friends”–even the exact same apps being released with different names corresponding to different languages could be a powerful way to draw a more global demographic into the Facebook community. Developers could even add a simple “Language Preference” to their apps, using all the same code logic, but simply giving the user the choice of which language to see the various app text in.
I believe (and hope) we’ll see many more applications marketed to speakers of various languages, as it seems that such development can only be a win for the user (via increased “identity accuracy” or what have you), for the developer (larger audiences), and for Facebook (more users around the world seeing Facebook, because of the openness of the Platform, as a potential home for their online identity).