Google has cited economic reasons when announcing that they will be shutting down the service:
Important: The Google Translate API has been officially deprecated as of May 26, 2011. 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. For website translations, we encourage you to use the Google Translate Element.
It should be pointed out that this is not an isolated incident – Google is shutting down a bundle of others as well: “some of our older APIs have been superseded by bigger and better things and others may not be receiving the necessary love“. And for a company that could buy the music industry, economic abuse is a pretty big call – either it’s breaking into other Google realms unexpectedly, or there’s another product on the horizon – maybe something through Google Apps for Enterprise?
For those that are thinking “what the hell is an API? What does that mean for me?”, and API is the programming interface to software – so anytime you used Google Translate in OmegaT (for instance), or you had a website automagically translated on the fly, it was using the Google Translate API. The API is how the OmegaT developers know what to “send” to Google so that Google will respond, and what form that response will come in.
Does this mean that Google Translate is disappearing? I doubt it – the blog has a an interesting piece up at the moment - Define, translate and search for words in Google eBooks - about a new feature in Google Books, where one can get a word or phrase translated on the page:
translate a single word or several sentences of content into dozens of languages, from Afrikaans to Yiddish, by selecting the “Translate” option. As with definitions, you’ll see the translated text displayed in the pop-up window.
And, following up from my previous post of Google Translate’s listen feature being used as a beat box, they have since admitted:
When we built (it) we thought it was a cool tool, but we have to admit we had fairly straightforward ideas about what it would be useful for (lowering language barriers and making more web content available to people around the world). As with many inventions, though, it turns out people have found uses for the tool that we never imagined.
What have people done? Well, there’s Google Translate for Animals, a couple of girls (successfully!) order Indian food via Google Translate, and in Taiwan, nearly half a million people are watching pop songs:
Users input Chinese words or phrases into Google Translate and then use the automated voice to create songs or to spoof music videos, dramatic acting scenes, etc. Some of them are very simple, straight melodies created with the automated translator.
From the look of the video offered, I would suggest that there’s something missing in translation – from my perspective it’s some pleasant c-pop with funny translation errors. I would suggest the view count comes from subtle or clever translations, that are the direct result of change of meaning that adding new Chinese characters to the existing words create. For example, see the translation change form:
I really… -> I do not… -> I am really not good at writing songs… (from 1:55-1:59)