Startup helps companies, developers go global with app, website translation

Smartling is rolling out a new Translation Management Platform

Startup Smartling is hoping to court mobile application developers and global companies vexed by the challenge of translating their products, advertisements and websites into multiple languages, with a new cloud-based software platform announced Wednesday.

Originally, Smartling offered a global delivery network, "kind of like an Akamai," through which companies would route traffic and have it come out translated on the other side, said Smartling founder and CEO Jack Welde. That service remains available.

The company's new Translation Management System gives enterprises APIs for pulling in data and feeding translations to sites and applications; dashboards for "in-context" editing; alerts and other workflow tools to keep projects moving along; and analytics to check project progress, according to a statement.

Translators get to look at actual Web page captures and mobile application screen snapshots of the to-be-finished products. This allows them to see and fix potential problems, such as a line of German text that as currently worded is too long to fit inside a button, Welde said.

Smartling's approach is also much more iterative than past practices, where a customer might send off a large file for translation, only to receive it later and find it contains many problems and inaccuracies, according to Welde.

Smartling has been in business for about three years and has about 1,000 customers "big and small," Welde said. Higher-profile ones include Foursquare, Vimeo and Nokia.

Smartling, which competes with companies like Cloudwords, uses a combination of professional translators, machine translation and crowd-sourced volunteer translation.

Machine translation is "hard stuff to do," Welde said. Therefore, Smartling hasn't tried to create its own technology and instead integrates with service such as Google Translate.

"Think of us as the platform glue that can engage with any of those guys," he said. "We're fans of human, high-quality translation. We're not fans of machine translation. Google has spent so much time and money on this and they've seen the returns getting flatter and flatter."

Given the growth in Internet usage in emerging markets, rapid translation services are crucial, Welde asserted.

"If you have a mobile application you should be in 20 languages right away," he said.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is

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