We hear it all the time: Facebook has 1.65 billion users worldwide. But that also implies something else that can go overlooked -- there are a whole lot of languages being used on Facebook.
The social network wants to make it easier for people to communicate with a global audience -- even if you don't speak a language other than your own. On Friday, the company introduced new software that automatically translates Facebook posts to several different languages. Once you publish your post, Facebook will show it to people in their preferred languages.
Here's how it works: Type up a post, click on a pull-down menu, and you can add up to 45 different language translations, ranging from French to Filipino to Lithuanian.
For now, the software, called the "multilingual composer," is being tested only among a small group of users. The company has already been testing it with Facebook Pages, which are specifically for businesses and brands, but it's now opening testing to the broader social network. The company said the feature is already being used by 5,000 Pages.
Facebook says half its users speak a language other than English. The new tool will use artificial intelligence to prefill the translation field when you add different languages to a post. Then the software uses information like a user's location, language preferences and what language a person most commonly uses to post on Facebook to decide which version of the message to show.
Artificial intelligence is all the buzz around Silicon Valley. Google has staked its future on infusing AI into every device consumers own, with software it calls the Google "assistant." Microsoft has invested heavily in chatbots. Facebook has done the same, with bots for its Messenger chat service that can help consumers buy things or perform customer-service tasks. The social network has also created a new Applied Machine Learning group, which is working on AI software that helps to search through photos and videos.
The move is important for Facebook's business. The more stuff people post on the social network, the more time they may spend on the site. That's gold for advertisers, and ads are how Facebook gets paid.
Other tech giants have used software to overcome language barriers too, including Google with its Translate app and Microsoft with its Skype Translator.
Facebook says that usually when people are trying to reach a mass audience, they type out the same message in several different languages and include them all in the same post. But that means readers have to scroll through a long post until they find the language they understand. With the new tool, a post author can also edit all the different language versions of the post simultaneously.
So if you want to reword that political rant you translated into three languages, don't worry. You're covered.