Did you know that the Firefox web browser has a translate feature similarly to that of Google Chrome? Most Firefox users are probably unaware as it is not enabled by default and not highlighted in the options or user interface.
Mozilla revealed in February 2014 that it was working on integrating machine translate functionality in the Firefox web browser and started to include the functionality in Nightly versions of the browser in May 2014.
Mozilla’s first version of translation support in Firefox used Bing Translate to translate website content. It worked similarly to Chrome’s implementation of Google Translate.
A notification bar is displayed when a user visits a site that is in a language that is not installed in Firefox. The bar highlights the detected language of the page and offers translation options. A click on translate translates the page in the default browser language, selection of “not now” hides the prompt.
Options to “never translate” the detected language or the site are provided as well.
Mozilla added support for Yandex Translate in Firefox 41 which it released in mid-2015. It went all dark soon thereafter; the feature was not pushed to the stable channel and only some fixes were released in the three years that followed.
The inactivity ended last week when Mozilla started to add support for Google Translate to the translation engine built into the Firefox web browser.
While the feature is not fully functional yet, it is an indicator that Mozilla has not forgotten the translate feature completely. Users who enable the translate functionality in Firefox on about:config will notice that Google is the selected translation engine.
Load about:config?filter=browser.translation in the Firefox address bar to display the preferences.
browser.translation.detectLanguage — set this to True to have Firefox detect a page’s language.
browser.translation.engine — determines which translation service Firefox uses. Supported are Google, Bing and Yandex.
browser.translation.ui.show — defines whether Firefox will display the translation user interface when foreign language sites are opened. Set to True to show the UI, False to hide it.
Google Translate cannot be used currently in Firefox; the browser throws an error message when you hit the translate button in the UI. Bing and Yandex don’t seem to work either at this point in time even though Firefox seems to try and translate the page. The “there has been an error translating this page” error is thrown eventually as well.
Google Translate requires API access keys and that is usually only available if companies or users pay for the key. It is unclear if Mozilla plans to make a deal with Google or if users will be required to use their own API keys for the functionality. The latter would surely be very limiting.
Add-on developers created numerous extensions that integrated translate functionality in Firefox in one way or another. Google Translate Bar was one of the first to replicate the translation bar of Google Chrome; it was launched in 2010 alongside other extensions such as Facebook Translate or Translate This.
The extensions don’t work anymore, however, as Mozilla switched to a different extensions system in Firefox 57. If you search for translate extensions on Mozilla AMO you get a large number that is compatible with Firefox 57 and newer:
Fast Translation uses Google Translate to translate selected text.
S3 Translator uses Google Translate to translate the selection or page.
September 09, 2018