Friday, 2 January, 2009

Hindi on the Net

I was talking with a friend about disproportionately low number of Hindi entries on Wikipedia.

Here today, on 2nd Jan 2009, I am sticking my neck out and making a prophecy.

I see may be a 100 times jump in Hindi blogs / Hindi Wikipedia entries etc. - essentially usage of Hindi on Net - over next 12 / 18 months.

Google with the transliteration tool on Blogger has kind of changed the game by making it almost intuitive to write in Hindi.

The other game changer is BSNL net in small semi urban places.

The reason Google is pushing local Indian languages on Net is simple - the advertising is what makes Google. If your readers / ads / content is only in English, there is an upper limit (in Indian contex), so as to speak, on the number of people who will advertise on Google.

So, they want more Indian language readers using Internet. Indian language readers (I find the word vernacular very derogatory) will not come to the computer screen unless there is relevant content.

Relevant content - specially UGC (User Generated Content) requires local language input. Traditional ways of inputting Hindi (for that matter Tamil, Kannada, Bangla) were tough to say the least. Either you needed specific keyboards or another program that required you to click by mouse on the Hindi letters. Hugely inconvenient - hence didn't take off.

It is a matter of time - in fact I wonder why they haven't done it yet - that Google Mail will allow transliteration (and hence Hindi usage).

That should give a fillip to Hindi usage.

Also I see Hindi blogs / stuff catch mainstream (I refer to Hindi newspapers / media) media attention. That should make the vast masses feel more Ok using Net. They can relate to it as something relevant to them.

There is one missing link yet - but I sense even that will fall in place quickly - since Google has much of technology already. That missing link is searching Hindi. This is not as simple as it sounds.

Inputting Hindi is one thing. To search Hindi content, Google's algorithm has to make sense of syntax of Hindi and the grammar of Hindi. Try doing that for 16 Indian languages and you know what I mean.

The more spoken languages should be taken up first. I assume Hindi, Bangla (consider Bangladesh market as well) and Telugu and Tamil should be in first lot.

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