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Google to close Google Translate API

Google is to close down its popular Translate application programming interface by the end of the 2011, owing to what it claims is 'extensive abuse' by users of the service.

Google Translate is one of the most popular machine translation services around, offering users of the Google search engine, Google Chrome browser, and Android smartphones the ability to translate a wide variety of languages to or from their native tongues.

To popularise the service and to encourage its use, Google launched the Translate API - a programming interface that allowed coders to integrate Google Translate functionality into their websites and applications. Its use is widespread, but that's not stopping the advertising giant from shutting its doors at the end of the year.

According to a note quietly posted to the Google Translate API Code page 26 May 2011, the service is now officially deprecated - and its users will see the number of requests they are able to make each day limited until it eventually ceases completely on the 1 December this year.

The reason, Google claims, is a "substantial economic burden caused by extensive abuse." Quite what abuse has led to a company which is generally considered to have enough bandwidth and processing power to run the entire Internet twice over finding the service a 'substantial burden' isn't detailed in the terse note.

The news will come as a disappointment to programmers that have worked to include translation facilities in their applications via the API, and while the alternative of an embedded Translation function via the Google Web Elements service is available, it's far from ideal.

Google's decision to shutter the service gives its rivals in the machine translation space an opportunity - and with Microsoft offering SOAP, HTTP, and AJAX interfaces to its own Translator service, Google's loss could spell a major win for Microsoft and its Bing search engine.

The Translate API is to be joined in closure by a raft of other interfaces, including those used for books data, blog searches, news searches, image searches, video searches, and the seldom-used Virtual Keyboard API. A full list of APIs affected is available on Google's Code blog.

We asked Google exactly what constituted 'extensive abuse,' but were told by a spokesperson that the company has 'no more detail to share' on the matter.