For the entire short history of the internet, the English language has dominated. But that’s changing, and Silicon Valley’s consumer giants are moving to accommodate that.
Last Friday, Facebook said it was opening up a feature to all users that lets them post in multiple languages at once. Apple is enabling a similar feature with the iPhone keyboard in its latest software. And earlier this week, Google added a new tab to mobile search that flips between English and Hindi results, designed for India, its largest growth market.
Each feature will test each company’s investment in machine intelligence. The end goal, something Microsoft has made notable progress on, is a service that translates any language to another instantaneously.
The rationale is clear: It’s a hard technical problem to solve, and a necessary one — most growth in the internet will come from places where English is not the first language. Mary Meeker’s presentation of internet trends at the Code Conference demonstrates this nicely.
Fundamentally, the new features are meant to keep users across the globe drawn to each company’s core services: Facebook needs people posting updates; Google needs people searching; Apple needs people attached to iPhones. Anything the companies can try to do that, they will.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.