Google discontinues its Translation API

Google recently took the decision to retire its widely adopted API, stating “substantial economic burden caused by extensive abuse” as the reason.

The API has been “officially deprecated” since the 26th of May, and will cease to exist completely this December the 1st.

The instant Google Translate tool remains untouched, and the Translate Element that gives users a button to automatically translate websites will also be available.

Donald A. DePalma of the Common Sense Advisory speculates on Google’s reasons for this decision:

“We can only assume that: 1) Far more people used the API than Google had anticipated; 2) some of those users might have been social media competitors, so rivals might have benefited more from the MT capability than Google could gain with the additional training data; and 3) like Facebook and its realization that its crowdsourcing innovations were of immense competitive advantage, Google came to understand the strategic benefits of limiting the technology’s reach.”

On Google’s plans for the near future, he says:

“We suspect Google’s plan for the next few months is to quietly wind down the free service while the company puts the finishing touches on its Translate API 2.0, the new no-longer-free sequel. This function is too powerful and too popular to disappear.”

We at Web-Transaltions continue to watch the development of machine translation with interest – it seems that no-one has yet been able to crack the conundrum of making MT pay, and the ever-present issue of inadequate quality always remains.

Have your say – do you think it’s a good thing that Google have retired this API? What does it mean for the progress of multilingual websites?