Can a user-defined dictionary be done better than Wikipedia’s Wiktionary? Babylon, a maker of popular for-pay translation/dictionary desktop software, certainly thinks so, and they are launching Lingoz to prove it.
Lingoz is a collaborative, online dictionary where users are encouraged to participate by contributing terms and definitions, as well as by voting, commenting and aggregating words into helpful glossaries.
Considered a modest Israeli success story, Babylon has been around since 1997 and has sold 1.6 million licenses in over 160 countries. As the company’s first pure Web play, Lingoz is being kicked-off with a substantial base of 4.5M terms in 8 languages, leveraging the vast 9M definition database Babylon has amassed over its 10 years of operation. An additional 42 languages will be rolled-out in the coming months.
Back to Wiktionary for a moment. The editorial back-and-forth process that works so well for encyclopedic entries on Wikipedia seems less successful when applied to defining dictionary terms, a process more suited towards voting on multiple versions of a definition.
Cognizant of Wiktionary’s shortcomings, Lingoz is being launched with a sensible set of social/UGC features: Terms can be submitted or requested. Voting on content quality is performed with a simple thumbs-up/down. Users can also define brand-new glossaries themselves, or request ones to be created. Glossaries may prove quite sticky as there are virtually an infinite number of potential themes that can be built out (think Web 2.0 terms, 60’s Hollywood actresses, etc—although a good starting point might be an actual definition for Web 2.0, which does not yet exist on the site.
The main competition Lingoz faces is from Answers.com—ironically, another Israeli company. Answers.com doesn’t embrace UGC yet. If Lingoz can become the Wikipedia of online dictionaries, perhaps one day it will give Answers.com a run for its money. That would especially be true if Lingoz could attract substantial Google traffic. As Google’s default “definition” provider, Answers.com is especially vulnerable to any changes in referrals from Google. (For instance, a recent Google search algorithm tweak reduced their traffic by 28%). How do you define opportunity?