June 7, 2010, [MD]
I just came across a new list of the 1000 most visited websites globally, hosted by Google's AdPlanner. There isn't too much information about how the list was put together, although it's noted that certain pages that are not open to the world, spam sites, and porn sites have been removed (it would have been interesting to see how high up the various porn sites would rank). Although all such measures have an element of error, Google should have a fairly good understanding of the world's internet, and people buying ads need to know very precisely how many users a given web page has, so I would assume that this list is fairly accurate.
Just looking at the top 50 websites, it is very impressive how many Chinese sites are listed! The first few are all English (with Wikipedia as number four, after Facebook, Yahoo and Live). The first Chinese website is Baidu, at number 8, immediately followed by QQ (a Chinese chat client). The third country to appear is in spot 25, with the Japanese version of Yahoo. If you go through the top 50, there are 32 English websites, 15 Chinese and 3 Japanese. If you continue down the next 50 posts, there are more English and Chinese sites, a few Japanese and Korean, and one or two Brazilian and Russian entries.
Indeed, you get the sense that the two super-languages of the World Wide Web are English and Chinese, without any competition. And this makes sense. I was talking to a friend today about demographics, and how India is gaining on China (Wikipedia currently gives China as 1,34 billion and India as 1,18 billion). I asked him what the next country was: the US, with 309 million! Quite a big gap! And of course, although technology growth in India is impressive, none of the Indian languages have much of a presence on the Internet at all.
It's also important to keep in mind that this list measures top web sites, this isn't necessarily a good proxy for how much content is available in that language. Some of the sites listed are actually Web 2.0 sites that host content in many languages (I counted Twitter as an "English" webpage, but of course, people tweet in hundreds of languages. The same for Blogger, and even Facebook, etc). Instead of using Blogger, everyone could host material on their own domain (like I do with reganmian.net), which would result in no site from that country being listed on the Top 1000 List.
This is also the reason why Spanish, which according to Wikipedia is the first language of 330-400 million people, has no site among the top 50: It's scattered over so many countries. Although it's (mostly) the same language, people still use the newspapers and blog engines of their own countries. There is no surprise that all the secondary languages I mentioned above: Japanese, Russian, Portuguese, Korean – are all the national languages of very large countries. If Brazil had been split into lot's of small South-American countries, with their own individual politics and celebrities, etc, we might not find any Portuguese site on the top list.
This list is important, because many top lists made by Western companies systematically under-represent content not in English (for example Technorati's list of top 25 blogs, which are somehow all based in the US). These give North Americans the idea that most of the web speaks English, and that there is no point in learning another language.
I hope that the multilingual Internet will continue to grow. And these statistics might be meaningless in the future - we might all be chatting in English on a Chinese social networking site! (Remember, they have more Internet users than the US today, but only 1/4 of Chinese are online... Lot's of space to grow!)
StianStian Håklev June 7, 2010 Toronto, Canada comments powered by Disqus