It has been a big couple of weeks for Babylon, the Israeli online translation
Not content just with making the Alexa 100 Most Popular
Websites list, it also broke the Guinness world record for most
translation software downloads.
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
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.
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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
“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
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
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.”
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,
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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