MeGlobe is a new startup designed to bridge the language gap in the world of instant messaging. The free service lets you chat in real-time with people in 15 different languages, translating their IMs into your default language almost on-the-fly.
The platform is completely web-based and requires no downloads. You only have to fill out a quick form to get started, then its interface opens up within your browser. You can search for people based on name, gender, language, country, or a number of other factors, then initiate auto-translated chats.
The translations are still a bit rough — as the service’s developers readily admit — and that makes any actual conversation prove to be a bit tricky. I chatted with someone who spoke Portuguese and someone who spoke Chinese, and neither conversation really got past basic pleasantries before getting lost in translation.
Right now, MeGlobe supports English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Russian, Dutch, Greek, Swedish, Arabic, Japanese, Korean, Chinese traditional, and Chinese simplified languages. The service launched last month.
Our vote: MeGlobe is a great idea for our global Internet economy. It has interesting social appeal and plenty of potential business applications as well. Right now, though, the rough translations prevent it from being terribly useful. There also just aren’t a whole lot of people on it yet, so the idea of chatting becomes rather limited in that regard, too. Once the translations are improved, MeGlobe would do well to combine its services with a standard IM-based platform such as Meebo so that users wouldn’t be restricted to a small, proprietary community.