What about the value to Google?


Investors have criticized Google and other companies for spending too much time on peripheral services that seem to do nothing to enhance their core business, which is search advertising. Google Translation Center, then, seems to fit into that peripheral services category, among multitudes of other side projects with a historic fail rate of 80 percent. It's tempting to put this one in the same camp as Google Books or Google Scholar.

But, as repeatedly illustrated, Google products and services are often surprisingly related to the search business or are masks for some other, some grander, purpose. Google News, for example, Marissa Mayer estimates is worth $100 million despite its free status because of the number of searches it generates on the main search engine where ads are displayed.

That Google 411 thing? That was a front for voice recognition technology development. Callers got their info, Google got their voices to play around with. Indeed, Google's services are appearing less spontaneously altruistic and more mutually beneficial with every new launch.

Google Translation Center would be no exception to that new rule. In June, CEO Eric Schmidt said the goal was for Google to be able to translate 100 different languages, so this seems like a step in that direction.

But also, in the same way the Rosetta Stone was a key element in translating ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, Google can use submitted human translations as comparison tools used for machine translation. Google's "payment" for use of its Translation Center, then, are the translated texts themselves.

Currently, machines lack the capacity to understand nuances in language, and therefore lack the ability to understand highly contextual, colloquial, or combinative search queries. Having human word strings and phrases to compare them to would help not only in the same language search capacity, but also in offering cross-language searching.

That helps Google in search, but it also fits in with the larger context of making all information available globally—except in China, of course.

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