an Edmonton-based human translation service that puts translators in touch with clients for a service fee. Babel Fish Corp. started Babelfish.com back in 1995 ostensibly to sell software and database development services from offices in Calgary and Edmonton. The translation part was only an afterthought, according to one of Babel Fish’s original owners John Bohaychuk.
“”Babelfish.com was more of a self-sustaining component,”” he said. “”We just ended up with the domain name and a lot of people came to us because of that. . . . Io-Tek came along and it kind of fit right in. We really didn’t have the capital and manpower to take it to where it could have gone.””
Babelfish.com has since become one of the Internet’s premier translation sites, routinely attracting 1.5 to two million hits a month, even it’s just a portal without any inherent technology of its own. It re-directs traffic to free machine translation sites online.
“”Everybody thought that Babelfish was a technology, but it never has been,”” said Oscar Jofre Jr., Io-Tek CEO. “”It’s biggest value is that it’s a registered trademark, it’s a dot-com. The technology is Io-Tek. We’ve spent the last couple of years developing it.
“”Io-Tek doesn’t have the branding, Babelfish does,”” he added. “”People recognize it has something to do with translation. It’s always top five on the search engines, whereas ours doesn’t appear on the top 100.””
The Babelfish was originally a creation of Douglas Adams and appeared in his book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Protagonist Arthur inserts one of the fish into his ear and any foreign language he hears, earthly or otherwise, is instantly translated into English. Bohaychuk refused to address the link to the Adams book, but Jofre said he did investigate before buying the namesake company. “”We don’t feel there would be any (legal complications). Babelfish isn’t a product, it’s a portal. It’s an issue that’s come up in the past and nothing’s ever come of it.””
Jofre will keep the Io-Tek corporate name in the background and use Babelfish.com’s notoriety to promote his MC Global Suite for Translators service. According to Jofre, it’s already working. “”We only have about 1,500 registered users. In a matter of 24 hours after putting the domain on Babelfish.com, 252 new customers (have signed up),”” he said.
Jofre uses human translators to preserve the subtlties of language and expressed distain over the lack of nuance a machine can achieve. Just the same, he will maintain a link to an online machine translator on Babelfish.com as soon as he can find a partner. “”It’s a nice service to have, but it’s got to be a bit better quantified than just redirecting people,”” he said.
Bohaychuk said he will act as an occasional consultant to Io-Tek and will continue to offer software services to his existing customers under the new name Bytemonger.