17 years of FreeTranslation.com

17 years of FreeTranslation.com

Back when the internet was picking up steam, but before the dot-com bubble burst, FreeTranslation.com was the only translation site to offer automated translation services to anybody who happened to land on its dreary homepage. It’s okay, they were all dreary –it’s not a surprise the bubble burst.

Here’s a screenshot of the 1999 version of FreeTranslation.com when there were only nine pre-selected language pairings available.


Not exactly aesthetically pleasing but let’s remember that webpages in the 1.0 days were not there to win beauty competitions.

As the year 2000 came to an end, following the Y2K scare and the dot-com fiasco, FreeTranslation.com got a facelift and discovered advertising.


In 2001 the site went through two changes, both of which brought in the familiar green branding following its acquisition by SDL. The language offering remained limited, but at least the second version was pretty clean, even by our modern standards. What do you think?


By 2002, the SDL brand was becoming more prominent and the importance of professional translation services was reflected in the Click2Translate banner on top of the page. The Translation Tool was also given a few upgrades; the language drop-down menu added two new pairings, Norwegian and Portuguese, while site visitors could now copy or clear the text in the box with one click.


In 2004, the page expanded its scope with the addition of the Desktop Translator tool, which enabled translation within Outlook and Word. The site was also used to showcase SDL’s core business offerings for global companies.


By the end of 2005 we had two major updates: The layout improvement and the new language pairings, bringing the total to 17. The name change sent a clear message “Free2Professional Translation” SDLs core Professional Translation offering was highlighted in the branding itself, just in case anyone forgot.

A quick note on the design though: at the time most monitors were set at a 1024 x 768 resolution with a 4:3 aspect ratio, so this design made perfect sense. Keep in mind, too, that previous layouts were made for even lower resolutions, like 640×480 or 800×600 – I know!


Ten years ago, in 2006, the focus shifted from the translation tool to our Professional Translation service which kept our translators busy. There were also 19 language pairings on the translation tool at this time.


One year later, in 2007, FreeTranslation was pretty much the same, except…can you spot the differences?
A more familiar header and logo replaced the previous design as the site went back to its roots. No more “Free2Professional Translation”. Good move; FreeTranslation does sound better.


2008 saw the comeback of the translation tool as the focal point of the site. On hand were also some of the additional translation tools offered via Platinum Club membership, the now outdated premium service offered to anybody who signed up on FreeTranslation.com.


Quite a busy looking site, a little something for everyone back then.

Finally, a revolutionary update! Gone is the single window Translation Tool in favour of the now ubiquitous source and target window approach. This late-2009 update also included updated language pairings and a more expansive offering on the rest of the site with links to other translation tools, SDL services, and language learning.


Well, outside of some very minor changes, the FreeTranslation design remained virtually unchanged for over three years, until 2013. While you can’t see the source and target box in this screenshot (just imagine two boxes, side by side, instead of the error message) you’ll notice the ‘look and feel’ has been updated to reflect an internet world where product focus and user friendliness take center-stage.


A new, corporate-themed design with mostly the same functionality came into play in 2014 and it remained unchanged until…TODAY. “Before” and “After” below.

Before (2014):


After (2016):


Seventeen years in the making and it has come a long way. Born before Google Translate, Microsoft Bing, Facebook, and Twitter, FreeTranslation.com has experienced the evolution of web design almost from the very beginning. We expect this long history to continue; FreeTranslation.com will be around as long as we continue to build relationships and grow businesses all over the world.

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