At around midnight on the 8th, according to Anshu Prateek, Facebook launched its Indic language interface, featuring Indic languages including Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Punjabi and Malayalam. The interface allows users to navigate Facebook in either of these languages; last month, GigaOm had mentioned that Facebook is working on Indic languages.. I gave Hindi a go, switching from English (Pirates), and promptly received a friend update in Hindi, via email (screencap).

Though navigation in Hindi was quite easy – albeit a little unfamiliar – one key functionality that is still lacking: Transliteration. While allowing navigation in an Indic language is fine, Facebook will benefit from having an Indic language interface only if it allows users to compose messages in Indian languages. India’s case is a little different from, say, Korea: the usage of local language keyboards is limited, and most current Internet users tend to be multilingual. A tie-up with a company like Quillpad, or incorporating Google transliteration would have been ideal.

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Google has incorporated Indic language transliteration with its social networking site Orkut in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. However, when we tried it, Transliteration didn’t work on Orkut using Google’s own browser Chrome. That said, people have been using transliteration tools to type out Indic languages messages for pasting on Facebook and Twitter. We wouldn’t be surprised to see Google incorporate transliteration into Orkut, just as they recently did with Gmail.

We’re wondering if this is a move by Facebook to counter Orkut, which is probably the most popular social networking site in India. The first thing I noticed when I logged on to Facebook today, was not a suggestion that I switch languages, but that I find friends from other sites like Orkut and Rediff.

(Update: removed link to cache of a page unrelated to the story. Thanks Saravanan. Updated story to reflect that Google has incorporated transliteration into Orkut, only it doesn’t work with Chrome. Thanks Ruchi)

Related: 

— Our Indic Language section

— Google Expands Language Transliteration To Include Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi And Nepali
— Updated: Facebook Goes Mobile In India With Tata Indicom
— Google Introduces Indian Language Transliteration In Gmail
— IIIT To Launch Online Translation Tool Sampark In June
-– Google Rolls Out Search In 3 Indian Languages – Gujarati, Marathi and Bengali; Rediff Language Search In Beta