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Is Free Translation Dead?

Covid-19 and recent trends toward automatic translations has pushed SDL over the edge. Tired of providing the free online tool for machine translation:, it has been quietly discontinued.

What does it teach us?

The main lesson is clear. Machine translation is extremely hard to monetize. SDL used as a click-bait hoping that people that come to use it for free would one day convert into paid users uploading their documents and large project. It looked like a valid claim since their online dominance was undisputed since 2000. Their website enjoyed one of the highest amounts of organic traffic thanks to confluence of lucky events.

However, no matter how much traffic it brought, those users would never use in the way that would make any sense to the website owners: bring revenue. And with a growing competition from Google, Microsoft, Amazon and DeepL, that mission was harder and harder to accomplish.

So, in the heart of the global pandemic, SDL has given up. They have shut down the once iconic successful machine translation website and refocused their efforts onto up-selling “commercial machine translation”. According to the recent trend, this market is a hot topic, thanks to the website translation companies like us. Machine translation is at a core of our technology. We purchase a lot of automatic translations via API protocols and our monthly bills are already in the high range and growing.

2020 is a tough year. Everyone is on the “stand by” mode saving resources.

What else it’s going to bring to the website localization industry?


Alex Buran

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