ICYMI: Meta already offers on-demand download translation for Android and iOS
Meta has been in the news a lot in the language industry lately. After unveiling its machine translation roadmap and announcing its shift to monolingual vendors, Meta AI has released its latest major language model, OPT-175B, as open source.
And then, just days after Meta released OPT-175B in early May, the social media giant revealed that it had developed mobile tracking infrastructure. This includes downloadable language packs to provide Android and iOS users with downloadable translation on demand.
Thanks to this mobile localization infrastructure, engineers will be able to, among other things, create and deliver gendered translations more efficiently. (Reducing gender bias is, of course, an ongoing pursuit of machine learning.)
The framework has already been adopted for Facebook and Workplace apps, with Meta looking to integrate it into other products in the future.
Without increasing app size or decreasing app speed, with language packs, iOS App Store package (IPA) Facebook for iOS has been reduced in size by 16.6MB, keeping it fast and responsive for users.
The importance of language packs was explained in an article by Engineering at Meta. It all boils down to traditional localization frameworks, as offered by native Android and iOS platforms today, presenting two key scaling issues.
The first problem concerns the accuracy of the translation. The native Android and iOS localization frameworks only support plain text and pluralized text, which makes it difficult to create gendered text without boilerplate code.
The second issue relates to language support and application size. Meta ran an app size test for the Facebook iOS app and found that by removing all translation files from the bundle, it could save up to 16.6MB in download size. Since most people only use one language on their device, the rest of the translation files in the bundle would take up unnecessary space.
The solution: downloadable language packs. To support the FBT API and provide accurate translations on mobile, each language pack file includes all translation variants. In order to support more languages while limiting app size, Meta provides an on-demand download solution, where devices only download the required language pack file.
Meta said language pack frameworks are not a one-size-fits-all solution and are constantly looking to improve the infrastructure.
Meta’s expanded mission
Meta’s Vice President of Internationalization, Product Quality and Product Experience, Iris Orriss, joined SlatorPod to talk about the company’s vision. Language packs are just one part of a company’s internationalization strategy that includes three main aspects: global activation, removal of the language barrier and removal of the cultural barrier.
Although Meta currently supports major Internet languages, it also aims to serve those who are not well represented online. So part of the strategy is to work on the next languages with the most potential to become important. “We need to remove language barriers for these types of languages because otherwise we cannot overcome this [language and cultural] gap,” Orriss said.
The development is consistent with Meta’s move from community translation to working with Single Language Providers (SLVs) to help build the translation infrastructure for major underrepresented languages on the Internet.