Facebook Taps Users To Create Translated Versions Of Site. Spanish, French and German Available Now

MySpace continues to roll out local versions of its social network. As I wrote last week, they tend to put a team on the ground locally (they are now hiring in Turkey) and then build the site not only in the local language, but promote local artists and other popular culture as well. MySpace now has offices in London, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Milan, Stockholm, Helsinki, Oslo, Copenhagen, Sydney, Mexico City, Sao Palo, Buenos Aires, Toronto, Tokyo, and Beijing. Offices will be opening up soon in Mumbai, Moscow, and Istanbul.

Facebook is taking a radically different approach – tapping users to do all the hard work for them. They are picking and choosing markets (Spanish was opened first, two weeks ago; today German and French were launched) and asking just a few users to test out their collaborative translation tool. Once the tool is perfected and enough content has been translated, Facebook will offer users the ability to quickly switch the language on the site, per their preference.

Like Google has done with image search and Wikipedia has done all along, sometimes it just makes sense to ask you users to do as much work as possible. As long as users go along with it, everyone is happy.

The translation application can be found here, but for now only invited users can add and use it.

Once users add the application and enable “translation mode,” they’ll be given phrases from pages they browse that need to be translated. Each phrase is an easy, bite-sized chunk. Once submitted, other users vote on the submissions and/or submit their own version. More details are here.

More than half of Facebook users are now outside of the U.S. Given that all of them need to browse the site in English today, that is an amazing statistic. Today there are just 600,000 active Facebook users in Germany, Facebook VP Matt Cohler told me this morning (actually, he told that to a Business Week reporter, but I eavesdropped and generally made a nuisance of myself). When a German version of the site launches, look for that number to increase dramatically.