One year ago this week, Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, was traveling throughout India meeting with local technologists and vacationing. Reporters wanted to know, what was he doing there? Speculation that a Facebook India would soon launch was inevitable.
Apparently, earlier today Facebook users in India were greeted with a new message upon logging in: Facebook is now available in Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam. As of 2001, (the latest numbers available) those languages had a combined 770 million speakers. Facebook has just over 200 million users, so this could be a huge opportunity for growth if the company can pull off more than just interface translation.
Facebook is growing fast all around the world. Last month, for example, we reported that the site’s number of active users in Africa and Asia grew over 70% in 12 weeks. Orkut is by far the dominant social network (and website in general) in India – but that could change in a big way if localization is pulled off effectively.
We expect Facebook will make an announcement about the availability of these six Indian languages sometime very soon – we were told about it by reader Nimish Adani, of Workosaur.com. Adani’s take on the news? “This move isn’t necessarily going to multiply Facebook’s usage as most people here would continue to use Facebook in English,” he says. “Usage of regional languages (in the online space and in the professional world in India) isn’t as popular as is the case with countries like Russia, China or those in Europe.
“I’d see this development as a move to woo those from the smaller towns and cities of India who are currently on Orkut. The more urban and suave English-speaking audience have already moved from Orkut to Facebook. MySpace (despite having an office in India) is a complete non-entity in India. Bebo has also come in recently but again its a non-starter.”
What do you think?