Google’s making sure that Chrome’s ascendancy is a global phenomenon, using a uniquely Google trick: It’s building automatic machine translation into the browser itself. Is Google trying to turn the planet into a happy chattering Net family?
Google, announcing the tweak, notes that the Web is an “amazingly multilingual place.” Well, duh! There are nearly 7,000 languages in the World so that’s really not much of a surprise. And while we may be sometimes forgiven for assuming that English has become a global lingua franca completely because of the Internet, the fact is that tons of Net content is published in non-English text. This situation is likely to continue thanks to moves like ICANN’s recent rule change to permit non-Roman characters in URLs, and as different nations embrace the Net and make parts of it their own.
Hence building Google’s machine-translation skills right into Chrome is something of a genius move. The system, as explained in Google’s promo video below, auto-detects if a page you’ve browsed to is in a different language to the default one you’ve got in Chrome’s settings, and it then offers to automatically translate the text for you.
The upshot for all Net surfers, particularly for people like myself who often find themselves browsing to foreign-language sites for work, is that Google takes a tiny bit of the hassle out of your day. It’s a subtle simplification, compared to copying a URL and pasting it into Google Translate, but the subtlety is actually important. Because, like Google’s plans to put automatic machine translation into Android phones in the future, the technology is almost science-fiction like in its reach: It renders the entire Web into a single language, almost effortlessly, à la the Babelfish. Sure, there are still odd artifacts in the translation, as Google is keen to point out, but these will be chipped away at as Google’s tech advances.
And Google’s also tightening up the privacy protections inside Chrome, as well as beefing security. All in all, this is a strangely timely set of moves by Google in the big-money Browser Wars.