In December of 2011 Google ended their free language translation service. Now Bing is ending theirs, may be. Google announced their intentions to do so early in 2011. Public outcry caused the management of Google to reconsider. In the end they decided to turn it into a paid system. Bing made their announcement in April of this year.
All the Second Life™ viewers and third party viewers, once upon a time, used the free service Google provided. There were various translation devices in Second Life that used Yahoo, Google, or Bing translation services. Google’s seemed to be the preferred service.
An interesting aside, for me, is that Yahoo Babel Fish users are directed to a special Bing Translation page. The Babel Fish banner does not always display on the main Bing translator page, but when it does you can get to this page: Welcoming Yahoo! Babel Fish users!
June 2011 is when I wrote about the free language translation used in Second Life ending. See: Second Life Translators Dying. Later, in August 2011 I wrote about Google’s pricing for their translation service. See: Language Translation in Second Life.
Linden Lab™ and third party viewer developers changed the translation service within the viewer to use the new API’s required by the services. I suspect most people have signed up for the free Bing API and have been using Bing since Google dropped the free service.
Pallina60 Loon recently contacted me about Bing stopping their free translation service. A quick Google search reveals that Bing/Microsoft announced back in April of this year that the free service would be ending. See: Microsoft ends free Bing Search API, moves to paid service on Azure Marketplace and see the announcement on Bing: Gearing up for API changes (4/2012).
In part the announcement says:
- With the transition, Bing Search API developers will have access to fresher results, improved relevancy, and more opportunities to monetize their usage of the Search API. To offer these services at scale, we plan to move to a monthly subscription model. Developers can expect subscription pricing to start at approximately $40 (USD) per month for up to 20,000 queries each month.
- The transition will begin in several weeks and will take a few months to complete. During the transition period, developers will be encouraged to try the Bing Search API for free on the Windows Azure Marketplace, before we begin charging for the service.
- At this time, you can continue using Bing Search API 2.0 free of charge. After the transition period, Bing Search API 2.0 will no longer be available for free public use, and instead developers can continue accessing the API on the Windows Azure Marketplace.
Unfortunately Microsoft continues with overly geeked-out explanations of what they are doing in the Azure Market Place, their online sales point for data and application services. I see they have a translation service for web pages and another they refer to as the Microsoft Translator. I think it is the later service that is needed by SL and TPViewers.
If I am right, the Bing/Microsoft service is going to continue to offer 2,000,000 characters per month of free translation. Microsoft explains how to use the API in a set of pages at: Microsoft Translator | Developer Offerings. I have yet to dig through the details, I’m really not interested, but I think the viewers use the HTTP API and will continue to work with the Bing translator service.
It took forever to find a clear statement on the 2 million characters free offering. Is it to be continued or dropped as suggested in the April announcement? I still don’t know. But, I do know the existing Bing Search API 2.0 will stop working August 1, 2012. But, it is unclear whether the free pricing will disappear from the Azure Market.
If Free Goes
It is entirely possible that at some point Microsoft will drop the free service, likely August if they do. In which case; people will move to any other free service still available. But, that move will likely only be a temporary fix. As people pile into any remaining free services the operational costs go up and they will quickly be pushed into cutting the service or converting to a paid service. While one can debate whether the jury is still out, that is what I predicted would happen with Bing.
I think it likely that translation will move to a paid service for Second Life users. So, the important question is what does it cost?
Google charges US$20 for 1 million characters, or about 200,000 words. The Google limit is 2 million characters per day. That can be increased to 50 million per day by the user. After that one must make special arrangements with Google. See the translator FAQ. Billing is monthly based on characters actually submitted.
Microsoft still has 2 million characters per month for free. That is about 400,000 words per month. Just based on the pattern of pricing on the Translator page, if the free service is dropped it will likely cost US$20/month.
There is no clear description of how the two services are working their billing, clear in regard to what happens when one uses less than stated amount per month. From my experience with Google, I will say the Google service appears to be more expensive, but is likely to be the cheaper. We’ll have to wait for someone using the service to explain how they are being billed. But, the ‘prorated’ statement in Google’s FAQ suggests it is based solely on use not monthly. If Microsoft goes monthly and uses $20/month as the minimum, they will be far more expensive.
The next question in figuring our cost is about knowing how much we are talking, how much will be translated?
From November of 2011 to mid July 2012 I have chatted about 1 million words, or 6 million characters. I am using Word to count the words and characters in my chat log. The typical time stamps in the log ([2012/07/10 14:52]) count as 2 words or 18 characters. I backed those out. It is unclear to me whether names are submitted with the data to be translated. I doubt they are, so I’ve backed those out too. Rounding off I get the 1 and 6 million figures. This is spread over about 7.5 months. So, I am under 1 million characters per month. And most of my chat will not need to be translated. So, I am way under the million characters per month count.
If I were to purchase a translation API, I suspect my cost would be about $20 per year. If I translated everything I chat, that could drive my cost up to $40. I think any rational use of the translation button in chat would keep my cost well under $20/year.
I suspect an enterprising person could provide a service for something like US$10 per year with some limits and make money. The Lab could probably add the service for a monthly/annual fee in the same price range and take advantage of bulk pricing. That would certainly simplify setting up and reduce the learning needed to have language translation in Second Life.
For now, you can still enjoy the free Microsoft/Bing translation service. Just get your API Key from the Azure Market Place. Don’t expect this to be easy. I’m still figuring out how to get the key and get things to work. It seems links from the SL Viewer and Phoenix-Firestorm have been changed on the Microsoft end and are thus useless. Instead of landing on an API page one lands on Webmaster Tools… no idea what’s up with that.
The API to Bing has changed. Those changes may have broken the SL Viewer. If that is the case we will hear screams August 1 when the old service is turned off. But, may it won’t break.
I quickly get frustrated with Microsoft documentation. So, I’m taking a break. Later I’ll see if I can figure out what is going on and try to get my translator working with the new API.