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Culture & Religion

How To Chat Online With Anyone, In Any Language

Currently in public beta, Härnu is a social platform where people around the world can share ideas and hold conversations with the help of Google Translate.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

Härnu, a Web site that launched in August, uses Google Translate and a map-based interface to allow users to chat with each other anywhere in the world (or almost; right now signups have taken place in over 80 countries) in the user’s native language. Interested persons sign in with a Facebook, Twitter, or Google account and then indicate in their bio what they’d like to talk about. They can also ask a question for people in a specific country, who will see it on the map as a pin.

What’s the Big Idea?

The site isn’t the first to use online translation in an attempt to bring people together. However, Seattle-based creator Jason Gowans believes that Härnu may be both a social network and “an extension of social search.” His company is also experimenting with country-specific news and music apps, all of which are designed to increase understanding around the world: “A lot of viewpoints come from a place of ignorance, when you don’t necessarily really know much about anything and your only source of information is what your local press or media is telling you…We hope [Härnu] is going to create some empathy for other people and other cultures around the world.”

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