Google Translate API Deprecated with Extreme Prejudice

by Translation Guy on June 6, 2011

The end of Google Translate as we know it? Not quite, but Google’s death knell for their Translate API has left the language development community buzzing like a bee’s nest fresh out of pollen.

Keep in mind that that API is just a door to let developers easily integrate translation features into their own programs. The Google Translate we non-developers know is going to be free and easy.

But the free translation ride for developers has been “deprecated,” which is Google-speak for removed from active development. But for this particular API, it reads more like deprecation with extreme prejudice. “Due to the substantial economic burden caused by extensive abuse, the number of requests you may make per day will be limited and the API will be shut off completely on December 1, 2011.” That sounds so familiar from my own bitter experience in the free machine translation space. Writing code to efficiently milk Google Translate is often the first recourse for any ambitious developer looking for something for nothing. This won’t be the first time that Google has proved there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

“Deprecating the Translate API was the hardest choice for us to make—we’re excited about the global web, and about helping developers and webmasters anywhere reach audiences everywhere,” says Adam Feldman, a Google online media associate. “We continue to invest in our Translate offerings, including the Google Translate web element. But the Translate API was subject to extensive abuse—the vast majority of usage was in clear violation of our terms.”

Since the announcement, Google’s become aware of the “passion and interest” of those cut off from the milk of Google kindness. Feldman, who is also API product manager, says “I’m happy to share that we’re working hard to address your concerns, and will be releasing an updated plan to offer a paid version of the Translate API. Please stay tuned; we’ll post a full update as soon as possible.” Now, Google could have created an application key system like some of their other products, but chose not to.

And it gets more interesting. CEO of MT provider Asia Online, Dion Wiggins, wrote on Kirti Vashee’s blog that “Google frequently offers alternatives to deprecated APIs. An alternative to the Google Translate API would have been the Google Translator Toolkit API. However, without making any announcement, Google also has quietly modified access to the Translator Toolkit API, removing all documentation and restricting access…. Google wants to control how and when content is translated into another language and by whom.”

It could be that by allowing the rest of us to translate any old garbage to generate multi-lingual link juice, Google is pissing in its own beer. The basic problem with Google search is that it sucks. I mean, it’s great, but it still sucks, because there is so much sucky information on the web. Every time Google allows a bad translation of bad content, bad content is multiplied, thus making it harder for Google to do a good search. That’s what the Panda search algorithm update was about—a radical attempt to cut the crap spreading like a computer viral red tide across the vast internet ocean. Ditto for the translation engines themselves. All those lousy Google translations are going to start actually making Google MT engines worse, rather than better, says Dion. Well, yes and no, but I watch Googlers doing their algorithmic magic sort of like a cat watching people have sex. I mean, do I really understand what’s going on? Virtual kitty treats for any of the commentariat with wisdom to contribute.


  1. Yes, well-observed – this is all about the quality of web content. Not only does Google have enough trouble distinguishing quality content from auto-translated junk, but the “black-hat” search engine optimisation fraternity has been using Google Translate to “spin” content – translating articles from a foreign language and back again to get “semi-unique” content quickly and easily, which can then be used for spam of various kinds.

    The fact that this, like the ‘Panda’ update will have NO measurable effect on the quality of the search results, is neither here nor there…

  2. Prevedi says:

    Today we have a huge number of websites created for sole purpose of selling links, thus cheating google’s algorithm into believing that the linked website has some quality content to offer – black hat SEO, as Mark already mentioned. Ironically, google translate made life a whole lot easier for “black hatters” – fresh content, just a click away. “Google Translate API deprecation” was inevitable.

  3. The Dynamite says:

    Please don’t shutdown the Translate API…

  4. JeriWatson says:

    Some time ago, I needed to buy a good car for my corporation but I didn’t have enough cash and could not buy something. Thank heaven my sister suggested to try to take the personal loans from creditors. So, I acted so and used to be happy with my credit loan.

  5. Minnie says:

    As the lead developer for a non-profit who depends on the Translate API for two of the free “services” we offer, this is a shame… like someone else said, associate a cost with it, we’ll pay it, but just shutting it down altogether is bad!

  6. Tara Drake says:

    Just rate limit translate API and sell higher rate limit licenses! Looks like some might happily pay for that! And devs will adore you if you do so 😉

  7. Kiki says:

    Boooooooooooooooooooooooooooourns! what the … ?

  8. Tits McGee says:

    Translate and Transliterate are being shut down? So much for being an international company – now no one should have any qualms about working for MS or FB since Google is acting, if not more, evil

  9. Wellhung says:

    Come on Google. We are the people always defending you, stating that they might look evil to the outside, but they still care about us, supply us with great tools, for free! Don’t give us the feeling that you don’t care anymore. That’d be the beginning of the end.

  10. Will says:

    Come on! Why not charge something like a fraction of a US Dollar per API call? Just enough to keep spammers from using it and not enough to keep developers from using for legitimate purposes!

  11. Xan says:

    I would pay for the Google Translate API!

  12. Vernon Khan says:

    One more question: will the Language Detection API be shutdown as well? it’s part of the translation API ( ✝ December 1, 2011) and – again – an unbelievable useful API.

  13. Pam Sun says:

    As its a big heartbreaking news for the Webmasters, but Google has an equally reasonable statement to close the API. Now What to do as an alternative to this problem that has suddenly arised?

    Here is the solution:

  14. Perhaps Google is planning a future proprietary translation capability separate from search – see it collaboration with the European Patent Office which will allow it to improve its machine translation using the EPO corpus of patent texts.

  15. If Google knows that autoblogs (whatever they are) are using the Translate API to get higher SEO results, then block those requests, or block the results from autoblogged sites. In other words, if Google knows which sites are generating these “abuse” usage stats, Google can also make those sites rank LOWER on their SEO score or block the SEO originating API requests…

  16. Keith Gates says:

    Think about it. What this means is that Google Translation did not provide Google with enough raw data (location, spending habits, etc.) to help them target ads (their only revenue source). That’s why things like Chrome and Wallet are perfect for them–they funnel all kinds of juicy data right into their cloud. Any API that doesn’t do this is dead meat. Yeah, they’re “open” alright. Open to collecting all the data they can about you to feed into their ad-making machine!

  17. Curse Google, they pretend that everything is free, but they offer no freebies Ken, none.

  18. Lynda Harris says:

    Wow, this is insane… come on google, to tell devs to f. off

  19. Pookie says:

    I loved you Google. Seriously. Until today. So much for ‘Don’t be evil’, eh?

  20. And that is why I dislike this move towards using all of these web api’s. I know some people that use things like this in key parts of software, and if the host can arbitrarily pull the plug on things your application is now useless.

    Much better when you have a copy of the API’s yourself, so even if the company chooses to no longer support the API, you can continue to use it if its needed.

  21. Stacey Ennis says:

    We started an action group on Facebook:

    “Don’t Shut Down Google Translate API”

  22. Moe says:

    Please find some way to keep the Google Translate API available, even if you have to make it rate limited like the Twitter API. I use it in one of my examples in a book that teaches Android programming (Hello, Android) and also in two apps on the Market. It will break a lot of apps if you shut it off completely.

  23. Tessie says:

    This should be a warning for every developer trusting in reliability and continuity of any Google API’s.

    I will never again start a project relying on Google API’s. Very bad and disappointing decision to cancel availability of the Google translation API’s.

    Good bye Google.

  24. Tim Wagner says:

    Its a huge abuse to affect thousends and thousends of apps. google can’t do that, they can leave a payment option or an authentication process if they have this huge amount of querys they say..noone can trust on their api’s..why they doit then? next year maybe there 10.000 apps using it and they disconect the api server..

  25. Hopefully no one wasted time building anything on top of that hype 😉

  26. This is absolutely wrong from Google – millions of people all around the world have helped shape the Google Translate service by contributing their time and effort in order to make it better. In return, I am sure quite a few of them were expecting it to be open to all for usage.

    Now it is understandable if Google starts charging a moderate fee for the infrastructure it provides, but shutting off the API completely is ridiculous. Come on Google, if possible keep a free tier (like you do for almost all services), and work out a pricing scheme beyond that. But don’t do this.

  27. Spanke says:

    Guys, any Google Translate API alternative that you use?

  28. Terry Combs says:

    I would happily pay for use of the Translate API. Just dropping the service altogether seems a terrible decision.

    This is extremely, extremely disappointing.

  29. Ryan Kirby says:

    Put a cap and charge for overages, not discontinue the entire thing!

  30. Whats your guess: How many apps and websites will be broken once this translation API is shut down?Hundreds? Thousands?

    But hey, you beggars: Google is not welfare. Why should they provide a service, that obviuosly burns a lot of money, but doesn’t even show ads? 😉

  31. Microsoft Translator here comes the boom!

  32. Bottom line, Google, DON’T BE LAME!

  33. Marwyn says:

    Ken, there is only one true sentence in your text: “Google wants to control”. What remains is prevarication!

    • Ken says:

      That whole “do no evil” seems especially ironic now that Google has trashed the Web. Not on purpose, just to make more money…

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