announced it will soon grow from its current offering of English and Japanese only to include versions in French, Italian, German, and Spanish.Twitter has
However, as their translation team now comprises just five staffers, Twitter is asking users to suggest translations for the website. "We are inviting a small group of people to become volunteer translators at first," wrote co-founder Biz Stone on the company blog. "As more folks volunteer, the translation suggestions should accumulate faster, and we'll have enough material to respond."
Stone also noted that French, Italian, German, and Spanish, collectively called FIGS, are the starting point for the company's planned expansion into many other languages. But will the startup be able to dominate internationally, given the substantial ecosystem of Twitter clones?
We've long been interested in Yahoo! Meme, which built its user base by launching in Portuguese only, then expanding to Spanish and, more recently, English. Some of these sites are more obviously direct rip-offs of Twitter, such as the Spanish Birddi. In fact, the Twitter fan wiki lists 28 foreign-language Twitter clones and links to this exhaustive list of more than 200 microblogging sites around the world.
Some of these sites have stronger, more established communities than others. Some of the URLs have been sold, and we're sure that some will be shut down for obvious trademark infringement or other legal reasons as Twitter expands its reach globally. Still, a few will remain in each market as viable competitors (and possible acquisitions).
Another thought we've had is that this will bring Twitter into the same arena as MySpace, Facebook and other larger properties in terms of having a large enough base of users to justify its valuation and ensure its continued success. Sure, Twitter is the tech scene's darling, and MySpace is an ironic bit of ancient history to hardcore geeks. But MySpace still controls a large share of many international markets and, perhaps for that reason alone, still gets enough eyeballs to remain competitive.
According to a Compete.com report earlier this year, Twitter saw around 6 million unique visitors in January of this year, making it the third largest social website on the Internet. MySpace had about ten times as many visitors. Facebook, which made translated versions of its site a priority some time ago, saw 68 million unique visitors.
And if you've ever doubted whether Facebook and Twitter are competitors, take a look at this Inside Facebook report on that network's international growth, which has surged to the point that Facebook's international users make up a full 70% of the site's users. Will those accustomed to using Facebook status updates as their microblogging platform of choice see the point of adopting Twitter?
Is an international scope, starting with FIGS translations, going to take Twitter over the top and make it a major-league player in social networking worldwide? And how will it deal with robust microblogging competition in international markets? Let us know what you think in the comments.