Video sharing site YouTube has announced fully localized versions of the site are now available in nine countries—Brazil, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom—and says more internationalized versions of the site are on the way.
“We’re extremely excited to be offering YouTube in the languages of so many of our users, since it allows people to express themselves and unite around interesting, relevant videos,” wrote Sakina Arsiwala, YouTube’s International Manager, in the company blog. “We’re looking forward to seeing communities develop between people in their local communities as well as among people around the world. We can’t wait to experience more original content and interesting genres of content in different languages on the site.”
The localized versions of the sites include fully translated home pages, content, and search features. As the international versions of the sites develop, users will be able to access country-specific video rankings, browse pages, and comments.
YouTube founder Chad Hurley has said that more than half YouTube’s visitors are from outside the United States.
The move may mark an important step in YouTube’s efforts to offer users a local and/or regional online video experience, while still enabling users to feel they’re part of a larger global community. Localized versions of YouTube may also increase the site’s appeal to professional content providers and, hence, advertisers: YouTube claims more than 1,000 content partners, with over 150 content deals signed with European firms since March of 2007.
YouTube was acquired by Google in late 2006 for over $1.6 billion; it has been the target of criticisms and legal action from copyright holders and content providers claiming YouTube enables unauthorized distribution of video content. Google and YouTube have been promising improved tools for content providers to identify and remove infringing video from the service, but the tools have yet to materialize. Google currently faces a $1 billion copyright infringement suit from Viacom over unauthorized videos hosted by YouTube.