Saturday, November 22, 2008
What can we do in the meantime? Well, Google has an interesting approach to this issue - automatic translation. If you do a search in Hindi and scroll down to the last search result on the first page, you'll see a link to a result that's been translated from English. For example, try querying for सरकारी नौकरी and scroll down to the bottom of the results page. You'll see a link to a translated query result. Clicking on the link takes you to a translated query results page. Here's how this works:
1) We will take your Hindi query - "सरकारी नौकरी" - and translate it into English - "government job".
2) We'll then run the English query and get back English results.
3) We'll translate those results back into Hindi for you.
All these translations are done automatically, using a machine translation engine developed at Google. This technology allows you to translate any text or web page instantly. Here's the Times of India homepage automatically translated into Hindi. Of course, because these are machine-generated translations they will never be as good as human translations (and they can even be quite funny) but the quality should be good enough for you to understand the sense of what you're looking for.
A neat and unique way of using technology to help bring information to users, even when it doesn't exist in their language.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
For our purposes, the operative words are world and universal. So how do we fulfill this core mission in India, for those who would prefer to interact in their local language rather than in English? Of course our core search technology works across languages and has been adapted to the specific needs of each language. Apart from this there are some specific features we launched on Google Hindi Search. I'd like to showcase one of them here. We launched this in response to the difficulty our users faced in entering Hindi text.
Problem: Hard to enter Hindi text on a regular english keyboard.
Solution: Easy Hindi search in 3 steps - Pictures say it louder than words.
Step 1: Start typing in English and you'll see Hindi suggestions
Step 2: Select your query from the drop-down list
Step 3: View the results of your search in Hindi
We have this feature available in seven other Indian languages:
Sunday, October 19, 2008
What struck me as I spoke to the developers at the conference is a sense of uncertainty about the market opportunity for Indic language products and services, so I thought I'd set down some thoughts on how I look at this market.
- In an earlier post, I outlined some of the demographic and socioeconomic statistics that set the context for this opportunity. Bottom-line: India is getting richer and more literate at a much faster pace than its learning English.
- In every country around the world, as the internet provided compelling content and applications in local languages, people found value in them. This is true across Europe, Asia and the Americas. There is no reason to think India is different.
- The bottleneck is this: people won't go online until hey find value, and the value creators (content producers, application developers) won't make the investment until they find people online. How to break this logjam?
- If we look at how the internet developed in the US, it may provide a useful analogy. For the purposes of our discussion, we can break down this evolution into three phases.
- First came content. This was mostly produced by communities people who had a passion for putting up content they cared about. Traffic and monetization was mot the motivation.
- Second came growing readership as people started discovering this content. This set off a virtuous cycle in which content eventually because a viable, monetizatable business.
- Third (and final) were the application developers who could now focus on moving the online experience beyond passive consumption of information to interactivity, community building, service delivery and a host of other innovations.
Are you ready?
Saturday, September 20, 2008
I beg to differ.
One of the most powerful features of the web is the democratization of access to information. With the web, consumers can be free of value-extracting middlemen and brokers of information. With the web, consumers can reduce information asymmetry. That isn't a luxury - it's a powerful tool to improve lives.
Imagine a sick child, and parents who have no easy access to medical care. The web can yield information to understand symptoms and help parents provide basic treatment. Imagine a bright school student who attends a poorly-run and managed school that will ill-prepare her for college and the job market. If this student could access educational content online, it could transform her life prospects.
Search can improve lives. And it helps those people most who have the least access to alternative sources of information - typically those lower down in the socio-economic ladder.
One of the things I like to do is to read Google's customer testimonials from time to time. I've reproduced a few below. This isn't a pitch for Google - you can replace "Google" with the more generic "search" and the message is equally powerful.
Message from: Abigail
"Google helped me discover that my daughter's strange medical problems are part of a rare genetic syndrome that most of her doctors had never heard of. Her doctors diagnosed her after I brought them the information, and my discovery helped her cardiologist diagnose another patient with the same syndrome. Because of my daughter's new diagnosis, we have uncovered other dangerous but treatable problems that we wouldn't have known about until they caused her serious damage. So, I'm very grateful to the people at Google who made all of this possible. Thank you."
Message from: Ann
"I just wanted to let you know that Google may well have saved my life. My sons and I were walking home from having eaten out. A half block from my house, I felt this pressure building in my chest. Immediately, I thought, 'heart attack' and ran through how I'd been feeling that the day (I had been nauseated). My first thought was, 'confirm suspicions,' and immediately, upon arriving home, I went to Google and typed in 'heart attack.' I kept thinking, 'you only have minutes...' I found a site that listed symptoms. Indeed, I was having a heart attack. I was at the Albany fire station within minutes. Five baby aspirin later, and a few squirts of nitro and I was in the ambulance on my way to the hospital. The good news is, I have no residual damage. My heart is back to normal. Thank you for providing the Google search engine. I'm sure my recovery was complete because of the speed within which I was able to get help."
Message from: Laura
"Last year my daughter, who was a senior in high school, was afraid of failing her math final. I did a search on Google and came up with more than one method of explaining the formulas...She passed the final and ended up with a B in the class instead of a C. "