SAN FRANCISCO Facebook, the social network site that has enjoyed spectacular international growth in the past year, despite being published only in English until recently, said on Monday it was offering a German version.
More than 2,000 German speaking Facebook members volunteered to translate the site from English to German in under two weeks, the company said in a statement.
The German version of the site represents Facebook's third language, as volunteers translated a version of the site into Spanish early in February. Facebook has also said it plans to release a French language site.
Roughly 60 percent of Facebook's 66 million users live outside the United States.
Matt Cohler, Facebook's vice president of product management, said in a statement that Facebook counts more than a million active users in German-speaking countries.
The Silicon Valley-based company was founded in 2004 as a social site for students at Harvard University and spread quickly to other colleges and eventually into workplaces. Its popularity stems from how the site conveniently allows users to share details of their lives with selected friends online.
Germany does not rank among the top 10 countries for Facebook users. After the United States, Britain is No. 2 with 8 million active users and Canada is 3rd with 7 million users. Turkey is fourth, followed by Australia, France and Sweden.
As the company releases new features, Facebook said it plans to rely on volunteers to help it translate the site into non-English languages, borrowing a strategy popularized by Wikipedia, the anyone-can-edit Web encyclopedia.
Facebook will soon release the translation application to independent software developers to allow them to translate their Facebook programs into German, the company said.
Users who added the Facebook translation application were allowed to submit translations online while browsing the site. Facebook users then approved all translations through a voting system, the Palo Alto, California-based company said.
Facebook members who wish to use the site in German can now change languages in their account settings to German or Spanish. Any one who signs onto Facebook from a German-speaking country will automatically see the site in German.
Facebook is playing catch-up on the international front to rival News Corp's MySpace, which has national sites in more than 20 countries. MySpace offers versions of its site in Spanish, French, German and Italian, including a site for U.S. Spanish speakers and another for French Canadians.
(Reporting by Eric Auchard, editing by Will Waterman)