Long limited to English and Japanese, Twitter is crowd-sourcing translations for its interface. Starting with German, French, Spanish, and Italian, Twitter is going multi-lingual. The Twitter blog says:
Twitter is currently available only in English and Japanese. With some help, we will soon be rolling out support for French, Italian, German, and Spanish. These languages are commonly referred to using the acronym FIGS and are often the starting point for services like Twitter when its time for more language support. Later, we hope to offer Twitter in several other languages. No matter how sophisticated technology gets, we’re reminded daily that it’s about people and that’s something we’ve taken to heart regarding translating Twitter.
This is a huge deal for non-native English speakers. One of the hurdles to introducing Twitter in non-anglophone Africa is that, while there are busily tweeting francophones, the interface is in English. As Miquel has noted, even adding French will open up the service to a huge number of users in sub-Saharan Africa. While testing the service last week, he also noted that options to translate Swahili and Afrikaans are also available, which means that Twitter is already thinking globally.
As Twitter’s valuation continues to climb into the stratosphere, Twitter has to start thinking of ways to expand its audience in order to compete with sites like hi5 and Facebook, who have both made significant inroads into the developing world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. This should increase Twitter’s appeal. Allowing users to interact with the site in their own language opens the service up to a lot of content makers, and encourages the creation of local content.