What happened to the Duolingo Incubator?

Do you remember the Duolingo Incubator?

It was that place you could go to check out the status of new and emerging language courses on Duolingo.

Perhaps you’re wondering where it is or what happened to it.

Well, sadly, it hasn’t been available for a while now — and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be making a comeback.

So what happened?

In this article, I’ll do my best to explain.

Let’s get into it.

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What was the Duolingo Incubator?

So what was the Duolingo Incubator?

The Incubator was the place where Duolingo grew and developed its language courses. It started off as an internal platform, but they eventually opened it up to users that wanted to help develop courses.

The contributor program was totally voluntary and a large number of Duolingo’s current courses came from it.

But the Incubator wasn’t just about contributing to courses. It was also a place that Duolingo users could go to monitor development.

You could see how many languages were being worked on, their current status, and estimated times for launch.

Duolingo would place courses into three different phases of development:

  • Phase 1 language courses were courses that were still in the very early stages of development and were not available to beta testers.
  • Phase 2 language courses were courses that had moved into the beta stage of testing. This meant that they were available to use, however it was likely that they would have bugs and other issues.
  • Phase 3 language courses were courses that had graduated from beta and that Duolingo had fully released to the public.

Each course had several pieces of information attached, including:

  • Contributors
  • Followers
  • Status reports
  • How far along it was in development

Why did Duolingo close the Incubator?

The Incubator was clearly a useful and transparent way of keeping up to speed with all of Duolingo’s upcoming courses and course updates.

So why did Duolingo shut it down?

From all the information we have at our disposal, it looks like there were 2 main reasons.

The first has to do with Duolingo’s IPO in July 2021. As a publically listed company, Duolingo would be making money from courses that it hadn’t actually created.

Naturally, this posed a bit of an issue — how could Duolingo continue to run the contributor program, which was completely voluntary, while it was profiting from its contributors’ work?

As such, to prepare for the upcoming IPO, Duolingo ended the contributor program in March 2021. The Incubator, however, managed to last a little while after this. You could still access the Incubator and monitor course progress, among other things, but you could no longer contribute to it.

The other main reason is that Duolingo, having moved to an internal process of creating language courses, now follows a standardized approach.

This is all to do with ensuring the courses align with the CEFR and meet the targets and expectations of its shareholders.

All of this was pretty much inevitable the moment Duolingo went public in 2021.

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What happens if you try to access the Incubator now?

As I mentioned, the Incubator was still live for some time after Duolingo axed the contributor program. It wasn’t being updated but you could still flick through all the different upcoming languages.

However, if you try to access the Incubator now — incubator.duolingo.com — you will simply be re-directed to Duolingo’s official list of languages.

These language courses are courses that would have featured in Phases 2 and 3 of the Incubator, as the list includes both beta and fully-released languages.

What this means for Duolingo’s future courses

It’s been nearly 2 years since Duolingo ended the contributor program, and, with it, the Incubator.

At the time, Duolingo stated the following about the future of its courses:

“We do not expect major changes to Duolingo. We will continue to develop new language courses as well as add to our current courses. We remain committed to using Duolingo’s platform to preserve indigenous and endangered languages. Most importantly, Duolingo’s mission remains unchanged and all of our courses will remain free.

Since then, Duolingo has released several new language courses to English speakers, including Haitian Creole and Zulu.

The guys at Duolingo have also rolled out a steady stream of updates to many of their popular courses, adding new content, as well as rolling out the new learning path in 2022.

However, the new internal approach, coupled with the loss of the Incubator, seems to me to indicate a slowdown in the release of new language courses.

It’s likely that Duolingo’s new internal approach will see the focus shift towards improving existing language courses, with perhaps one or two new courses for English speakers trickling out each year.

Unless they post anything on social media, it’s also likely that we’ll have to wait until the yearly DuoCon to receive updates on the state of these new courses.

For more discussion on Duolingo’s current and future language courses, feel free to follow me on Twitter.

You might also want to check out this article on every single Duolingo language.