Translating Websites – for Web 2.0s and Fortune 500s Alike (Part 1)

Since we launched the Smartling translation platform, uptake by different types of organization has, naturally, varied.

In today’s post, I’m going to take a quick look at how this has played out in the case of the other Web 2.0 companies that have so far made up the bulk of Smartling’s clients. In my next post, I’ll consider why Smartling is a tougher sell to Fortune 500 and other large companies – yet explain why, in spite of that, we count Web 2.0 and Fortune 500 companies among our clients. (It’s less surprising than it may seem!)

Smarting is Instinctive for Web 2.0 Companies

As I’ve suggested above, most early adopters of our translation platform are pretty much like Smartling itself – youthful, Web 2.0 companies.

If you think about it, this makes sense. There’s a direct cultural affinity between Smartling, which was founded in 2009, and those Web 2.0 customers – we’re all very young companies, trying to grow like mad, attending many of the same events, applying the same technologies to build our businesses, and cross-fertilizing ideas along the way. People at places like Scribd and SurveyMonkey get what a pure web play like Smartling is about as instinctively as they breathe. They’re totally comfortable with it – and, of course, this isn’t just true of Smartling and its Web 2.0 customers, it’s true for them and their Web 2.0 customers.

Web 2.0 Companies’ Website Infrastructures

At the same time, Web 2.0 companies are natural Smartling customers in a practical sense, because Smartling gives them (in an easy and affordable package) something from which they can profit immediately. The fundamental reason for this is that Web 2.0 businesses feed on traffic – whether measured as page views for those with an ad-based revenue model, or paid subscriptions or social graph-building check-ins.

Meanwhile, we know that people overwhelmingly prefer to interact online in their own languages – in fact, for most visitors if a site is not in their native language it might as well not exist. So each time a Web 2.0 company takes a new language site online, it effectively launches an entirely new product into a hitherto untapped market.

Smartling’s contribution is to make that entirely new product possible without the need for additional R & D. It makes easy and affordable something that would otherwise be technically laborious and expensive. This tends to be particularly attractive to Web 2.0 companies because they developed (very) fast and were initially focused on reaching a single language audience. Their infrastructure is uber-modern and often was built from the ground up to handle language sites. Older, more complicated sites may need some retrofitting so the code is flexible enough to handle different character sets, string lengths, etc.

And the Fortune 500s?

When we launched Smartling, we felt we understood its attractions to Web 2.0 companies. We also reckoned that for all the opposite reasons, long established companies would be much tougher to crack. We were mostly right about the first bit, but we were surprised to find that the second was less true. In my next post, I’ll take a look at how and why.