Facebook asks users to translate new versions for free

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The three-year-old social networking phenomenon Facebook, worth more than $15 billion by many estimates, got a good deal on going global.

Its users around the world are translating Facebook’s visible framework into nearly two dozen languages — for free — aiding the company’s aggressive expansion to better serve the 60 percent of its 69 million users who live outside the United States.

The company says it’s using the wisdom of crowds to produce versions of site guidelines — especially terms specific to Facebook — that are in tune with local cultures.

“We thought it’d be cool,” said Javier Olivan, international manager at Facebook, based in Palo Alto, Calif. “Our goal would be to hopefully have one day everybody on the planet on Facebook.”

Coolness aside, and many users are embracing the idea, other social networks aren’t “crowdsourcing” translation. The move is generating mounting criticism online, where some users question whether amateurs can produce good translations. Critics complain of sloppiness and skimping, even as Facebook says it is improving service in an innovative way.

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