Top 10 languages on the Internet

The Internet is one of the miracles of the modern world, and has completely revolutionized the way people access information.

People all over the globe are now using the Internet to buy everything from a bunch of flowers to a new car, their weekly groceries to their next beach holiday in the Maldives. Unfortunately though, as with many major resources in our world, the use of the Internet is not evenly spread and some countries and regions have far greater access to this amazing tool than others. As technology develops and countries are more and more able to make sue of it however, we are seeing countries that may have initially been slower to access the net suddenly show the biggest growth in Internet users.

For example, in Africa in 2000 the number of Internet users came to a total of just over 4.5 million people. Now in 2009, the number of users is over 54 million. This is growth of over 1000% and appears to be a huge number! However, when you compare it to the rest of the world, African Internet users make up only 3.4% of total global users… only a drop in the ocean! The Middle East market has also grown remarkably over the past 8 years, with user growth of almost 1300% yet this only makes up 2.9% of world users.

So… where are all these users if not in these two fastest growing regions?! You guessed it – Asia, Europe and North America take the first 3 places in this worldwide competition. Things start to get interesting though when you look at the most used language on the Internet. Given that Asia and Europe contain the most Internet users, you would expect the number 1 language used on the Internet to be from one of these regions, right? Wrong! Even though the USA is now only number 3 in terms of users, English still dominates the web in terms of being the most used language. Although the total number of native English speakers in the world is about 322 million, English is spoken as a second language by up to a further 1.2 billion people around the world. They make their contributions to the Internet in their own language as well as in English.

Chinese is the most common native language on Earth, and the second most-used language on the Internet. According to CNNIC, the number of Chinese Internet users increased by 42% in 2008 to a total of 298 million. This high rate of growth is expected to have a significant impact on the Internet in the near future.

After English (29% of Web visitors) the most requested languages on the World Wide Web are Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, French and German. So, this is where the plot thickens… When looking at the World Languages Map compiled by the research team at, the most spoken language in continental Europe is Russian, yet Russian only makes it to number 9 on the list of most used Internet languages. The same goes when you look at Asia, and although Chinese is the second most used language on the net (the most commonly spoken language in the region) the next most spoken language is Hindustani (taking in both Hindi and Urdu) and yet this language hardly features on the web at all. Let’s put this in perspective – Hindustani is spoken by more than 900 million people, more than the entire population of the European Union, and yet it has almost no Internet presence. Of the top 6 languages spoken on the African continent, only two make it into the top 10 Internet languages (Arabic and English). Swahili for example, is the second most spoken language on the continent and is spoken by 8% of people (the same percentage as people that speak English, French or Italian within Europe!) and yet like Hindustani, makes almost no impact on the web.

So, I have a couple of interesting questions… when will an African language make it into the top 5 languages on the net? Will Hindustani, Bengali or Indonesian ever make it into the top 10? Also, do you think that if there was more content in more African languages (after all, there are over 2000 languages spoken on the Continent!) would the number of users grow even faster? Is this an issue for Governments or perhaps technology companies, or a combination of both? Let’s hear your comments!


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