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Plurk: When Localization Is Not Enough

Interesting approach by Plurk, a small microblogging rival to Twitter, which is acquiring users in Asia by offering their service in local languages. Plurk has invested heavily in a strategy where crowdsourcing their translations seems to be key.

Nevertheless, audience numbers still, and increasingly favor Twitter around the world, which seems to confirm that having a product translated is far from ensuring success in a market.


Plurk's user interface and microblog posts are available in a range of tongues, from English to the languages of some of the fastest growing countries in the world, Portuguese (Brazil), Russian, Hindi (India) and Chinese.

"When Plurk first launched, we had a translation system where the whole system was translated into 25 different languages in two weeks, and it's all done by our users," said Alvin Woon, a co-founder of Plurk, in an interview.

Plurk sends out an e-mail with a new string of English to volunteer translators and they localize it then send it back. Head translators lead teams of users, and they vote for the best language usage when they run into unusual English slang or a new phrase. Many translators come from the open-source community and are willing to work without pay, Woon said. They also have a strong desire to localize a microblogging site into their own language.

So far, Plurk is offered in 33 languages, but a total of 45 different languages are being translated as of December/09. The list of writing systems is as impressive for its range as it is for difficulty. Arabic, for one, is available on Plurk, as well as Hebrew, Greek, Japanese and both forms of Chinese characters, traditional and simplified. The more obscure offerings include Irish (Gaelic) and Catalan for people in Spain.

The importance of localization can be seen in parts of Asia where English is not commonly used. Plurk is already the number one microblogging site in Taiwan, according to market researcher InsightXplorer, and is popular in Southeast Asia, including Indonesia and Malaysia, because people are able to use local languages.

Globally, Plurk remains far behind Twitter, according to data ranking Web sites by traffic from Twitter is number 14 globally, behind giants such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo. Plurk comes in at 1,073 on the list.

Plurk's largest audience is in Taiwan, according to Internet research firm, followed by Indonesia and the U.S. Twitter's main audience is from the U.S., followed by India, Germany and the U.K.


Image mixing the logos of Plurk and Twitter by theOOBE


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