Work on a project called Bergamot started in 2019 to develop client-side translation in a web browser. The project, run by several European universities and Mozilla, aims to create a translation service that preserves privacy for home users and the public sector alike.
Mozilla, maker of the Firefox web browser, ships the browser without translation functionality. While it did work on various translation features in Firefox in the past, none made it in the stable version of the browser, or at least not in enabled state.
Firefox users may install browser extensions like To Google Translate or Translate Man to add translation functionality to the browser. The big issue with these extensions is that they rely on third-party services, often by Google, Microsoft, Yandex and other companies. All of these translation services require connections to company servers, and that is a problem from a privacy point of view.
Project Bergamot aims to change that by running the translation engine locally and not in the cloud. The project team released a short demonstration video in 2019 that showed the first basic version of client-side translation running in the Firefox web browser.
Another interesting feature of Project Bergamot is that you may enable a quality estimation. The extension color-codes the text to estimate the quality of the translation; for example, green text indicates high quality.
Last month, another video has been published on the project team’s official Twitter channel. The team demonstrates two different forms of translation in the demonstration: translation of user input and translation of an entire website. Both translations happen on the local system without requirement to connect to a cloud service. In fact, the only time the extension contacts a server is when it needs to download the files necessary to translate a language that is not supported locally yet.
The speed of the translation is fast, and it is backed up by numbers. The team published translation performance data back in June 2020 for several devices. State of the art desktop PCs from 2019 manage to translate more than 8000 words per second using the machine translation service; the number goes down on older systems, e.g. a desktop from 2016 manages more than 6000 words per second and an iMac from 2012 more than 3000 words per second. Most websites should translate in under a second even on older systems.
The team has not announced a release date yet. Whether we will see a public preview of the Bergamot extension in 2021 is unknown at this point.
Now You: What is your take on Project Bergamot? (via Sören Hentzschel)