Facebook's German version may not impress the locals after all

EUROPE: Facebook launches in German this week thanks to 2,000 users who helped translate it for freee using a Facebook application which also now covers Spanish and French. User can set their language to German, and anyone who visits the site from a German speaking country will automatically see the site in German. Facebook applications will also be translated with similar tools. Facebook says they have about 1 million users from German speaking countries. Currently the “Network Germany” page reads just 350,576 users but obviously not all Germans choose to join this.

The question though is whether this translation will help Facebook get bigger than local players. Studivz Is the biggest social network for college students in Germany. Sold last year to its biggest investor Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH, a German publishing group, for €100 million, it claimed to have about four million members as of August 2007. It even has its own Facebook page (above).

Plus Facebook’s applications platform may not be as appealing to Germans as it thinks. According to a study on German social networks by Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences, reported by Deutsche Welle, “most people prefer to keep it simple and just use them to keep in touch with friends… They’re not interested in fancy features.” Germans like a virtual birthday calendar and their privacy. That’s it. Vampire applications and chucking sheep at each other don’t figure high on their list.

Meanwhile, as Michael Arrington notes, competitor MySpace – owned by News Corp – takes a much different approach to localised sites, prefering to put a team on the ground locally (they are now hiring in Turkey) and then build the site not only in the local language, but promote local artists and other popular culture as well. MySpace now has offices in London, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Milan, Stockholm, Helsinki, Oslo, Copenhagen, Sydney, Mexico City, Sao Palo, Buenos Aires, Toronto, Tokyo, and Beijing. Offices will be opening up soon in Mumbai, Moscow, and Istanbul.

The latter seems like a far more grown-up approach to the business, especially in Europe. However, who knows, perhaps Germans will gorge on Facebook, just as the Brits did last year, before entering rehab.