Just a day after Facebook launched a Spanish language website, Sasha Rush of Facebook said today that Facebook intends to help application developers internationalize their apps for users in different locale settings by making available some of the same tools Facebook has employed to translate its own site. Said Rush,
In addition to shipping some of strings off to be translated, we used FBML to wrap all of our static text. When a bilingual user comes to the site, she sees untranslated English strings marked with a red link and can translate them inline. Using this approach, users were able to translate the entire site in less than a month.
We choose this method to make it easy for platform applications to internationalize. Soon developers will be able to use the same method that we used internally to work with users to translate their apps.
Clearly, Facebook is signaling to the developer community that helping apps through the extremely difficult process of internationalization is a top priority. (Though of course, there is no way Facebook can solve all the technical challenges associated with building localization support for apps.)
In the bigger picture, it’s clear that Facebook intends to be a global player in social networking. Because its privacy rules significantly limit access and communication between unrelated users, Facebook as a product is well positioned to compete across international and language lines compared to many social networks. As translated versions of Facebook proliferate, we’ll keep a close eye on how Facebook is expanding into new markets.