Israeli firm Babylon celebrates record number of downloads

Not content just with making Alexa 100 Most Popular Websites , it also broke the Guinness world record for most translation software downloads.

By NADAV SHEMER
July 21, 2011 04:32
3 minute read.
Babylon CEO Alon Carmeli

Babylon CEO Alon Carmeli 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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It has been a big couple of weeks for Babylon, the Israeli online translation manufacturer.

Not content just with making the Alexa 100 Most Popular Websites list, it also broke the Guinness world record for most translation software downloads.

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Babylon’s software has been downloaded more than 105,000,000 times since it was created in 1997, a fact confirmed by Guinness World Records representative Rob Molloy last Thursday at a special ceremony held in Israel.

On Wednesday, Babylon CEO Alon Carmeli told The Jerusalem Post his company would not stop there. It reached 50,000,000 downloads only two years before hitting 100,000,000, he said, and it intends to double that figure again in 12 months’ time.

“The world of Internet has almost 2.5 billion people connected now, and by achieving the first hundred million out of them, it means we have a long way to go,” Carmeli said.

“All of them, or the vast majority of them, need some sort of help with languages – maybe except for native English speakers, [because] 70 percent of the content of the Web is still in English.”

Although Babylon now ranks 95th in the world in threemonth global traffic, it is only 697th in the United States.



About one out of every 10 of its users comes from Brazil, where Babylon is ranked 35th for Web traffic. It ranks in the top 30 websites in six Arabic-speaking countries: Sudan, Tunisia, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

“We’re very strong in the Arab world, and, by the way, this is something that has happened in the last year to year and a half, since this so-called ‘Facebook Revolution,’” Carmeli said. “I do believe the first thing people are doing [in Arab countries] is connecting to the Web and going to social networks. And the second thing they’re doing is seeking language assistance.”

In addition to Arabic-, Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries, the fastest growing markets are Turkey and Poland, he said. “Poland is a newcomer to the EU, and Turkey is a very fast-developing country,” he added.

Babylon also ranks highly in Israel, although Carmeli believes most Israelis are not aware of its origins. The company is listed on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, and all 150 salaried employees work out of its headquarters in Or Yehuda, near Ben-Gurion Airport, he said.

The secret to Babylon’s success is its strong belief “in the simplicity of the user experience,” Carmeli said. “It’s far more important than any other factor of technology; it’s more important than quality.”

“We believe that most people are not computer savvy or computer geeks, and they simply use computers and these devices because this is the new way, the new means for them to grab information and communicate,” he said.

“But it doesn’t mean they are sophisticated users. Therefore the solution for them needs to be very, very simple. If I launch a product that is not useful for an 85-year-old person, and it’s not useful for a seven-year-old kid, we are not delivering on our mission.”

Babylon has made tremendous technological advances in the past three years, bringing it to the stage where it supports about 100,000,000 translation queries each day, Carmeli said.

The company is investing heavily in development of new technologies, such as the connection between speech and text, for which “the market is expecting further solutions,” he said. But it would continue to make the user experience its primary focus, he added.

“The user is not aware of all the technology and knowledge that is running in the background, and it’s our job to make it transparent for him,” Carmeli said. “It’s our job to satisfy him so he’ll tell his friends and he’ll also choose us. And that’s not an overnight thing; you can’t just take a dictionary and make it into software and then it’s complete.”

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