As has been long expected, Facebook has begun to work on making its service available in multiple languages as it expands internationally--and it's doing so by utilizing the power of its millions of users by enlisting them to volunteer a few minutes. The site has spent the past few weeks asking international users to participate in the process by installing a "Translation" application that lets them translate words on Facebook from English to their native languages. It only applies, of course, to Facebook-generated text; anything entered by users, like interests or favorite movies, remain as-is.
The Translation application is initially available in French, Spanish, and German, and Facebook has said that thousands of users have enlisted in the process and are "actively translating."
But it's more complicated than that: "This doesn't mean that once a user has finished translating the site will be available in that language," a release from Facebook explained. "In order to get the best possible quality translations, we have a voting system. Other translators of that language will be able to vote on the quality of the translation by giving it a thumbs up or thumbs down. Users are also able to report any poor translations or translators." Essentially, Facebook has prank-proofed the system.
Full versions of Facebook in French, Spanish, and German will be available, ideally, before the end of March; when those are complete, the next set of languages (which have yet to be determined) will enter the translation process.
A handful of other social networks already offer a variety of languages based either on personal preference or geographic location. Friendster, which is popular in Asia, allows its users to toggle back and forth between English and Chinese; MySpace operates more than a dozen international sites with both language and content targeted toward the culture in question.