Google's Tower of Babel

At yesterday's Goldman Sachs Internet Conference, Alan Eustace and Jeff Huber--Google's senior vice president, Engineering & Research and vice president, Engineering, respectively--said the company accepts that some projects will never have an associated revenue stream.

iGoogle users, for example, don't have to fear a banner ad blitz, as neither executive sees adding ads to the personalized interface as a benefit to the user experience. But like the new Google Translate feature, iGoogle adds an indirect value to the company--driving page traffic, increasing user interaction with Google products, and of course, serving as another source of data aggregation.

"We're still in the second inning of a ninth inning game with regard to translation," said Jeffrey Pruitt, executive vice president, iCrossing. "But Google Translator is a major step toward allowing users all over the world to access a wealth of information."

Indeed, the cross-language search feature that lets users find and view search results on foreign-language Web pages in their own language seems right in line with Google's stated mission to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."



And while it may benefit users from Boston to Bangkok, it also allows AdSense advertisers, brands with English-only landing pages, and any publisher with consumer-relevant content to truly be accessible by a global audience.

Given that Google is skilled at incorporating user data into both its Analytics suite and contextual targeting capabilities, offering marketers profiles of user bases by language seems quite feasible. Whether or not the meaning of the words in ads will get "lost in translation" remains to be seen, as automated translator software does not fare well with the connotative and often conversational tone common to advertisements.

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