July 16, 2009 |
I sometimes can’t help but wonder how carelessly some of the largest companies in the online world tend to treat their international users, looking like they don’t care about these users at all and like these users don’t generate any advertising or other revenue for them – and don’t deserve attention because of this.
As someone who has been working as a translator for many years and still works on translation assignments for western online companies and software vendors willing to enter the Russian market, I always feel that many companies just waste money on translation of their products and services while they should have asked at least some local experts for help about whether these products or services will be needed in the new countries where such products and services are introduced. And I myself prefer to ask honestly that the market is not ready for a product (and lose a potential customer) instead of luring this customer into the market where they will invariably fail.
There’s really a big difference between translation and localization and if you want to get to a new country and achieve something significant there, you should ensure that your product actually meets local expectations. Usually the large international companies that have branches around the world avoid making these mistakes – yet it does not happen in 100% of cases.
Today’s strange example is Google with its Friend Connect service. Now I do love the service and whenever I see a favorite blog or website enabled with Friend Connect, I will always join the community of this website because I know how difficult it is to build any community around content. So when I saw the news earlier this week that Friend Connect is now available in 47 more languages in addition to English, I thought it was not bad – though I certainly did not expect to see its mass adoption here in Russia simply because the service is now available in Russian.
But today I have decided to take a closer look at what Russian tech bloggers say about Friend Connect and realized that Google has made a huge mistake here as translating Friend Connect into Russian did not make the service any friendlier to the Russian internet users – simply because the services supported do not fit the list of the most used Russian services at all.
On Friend Connect relationship data can be imported from numerous sources, including Google itself, Yahoo!, Twitter, AOL, and others). But I have spoken here already about how unusual social networking is in Russia: while we are the country with the most engaged in social networking population, the process is very different here from what you see internationally and social networking here is all about local players and international ones are hardly noticeable at all (with Facebook holding the 7th position in the list of top social networks).
This is why the phrase in the Friend Connect description page in Russian that members of your community will be able to find other community members using a whole range of services sounds like a mockery to me given that no popular Russian social network or email provider is supported at all (ok, Gmail is more or less used here but I would not say it has reached the mainstream already). And what’s the point in seeing Friend Connect in Russian if you can’t find and invite the vast majority of your online friends? What help will it get to the website owners if they can’t expect many new members will be drawn to their sites via invitations from their existing passionate users?
Now I understand perfectly well that someone in Google has decided that reaching the milestone of 5 million websites with Friend Connect integrated must mean a good time for international expansion. But any expansion should involve at least some analysis of the local markets and in this case (I mean, in Russia in particular as the situation could be different in other countries) I can’t see the analysis has been carried out at all. Really, having a whole office in Moscow must mean at least someone thinking about Friend Connect translation into Russian and probably adding some local services for the service to make at least some sense to the Russian web publishers as unfortunately for now it does not seem to.