Society

Languages Most Commonly Used On The Web

English dominates the online world with 54.4% of the top 10 million website using it as a content language.

Increasing Internet Usage Around the World

The number of people using the internet is increasing at a very fast rate even among third world countries. More and more people are spending their income on technology and acquiring devices that can at least access the internet. Previous data predicted that the recorded number of internet users in the world would increase exponentially and the number did increase. For example, internet users in the year 2014 of 2.9 billion (about 40.6% of the world’s population) grew to approximately 3.2 billion internet users (about 43.4% of the world’s population) by the end of the year 2015. The number has kept on increasing since then with future predictions showing an even greater growth. Most of the growth will be realized in developing states.

Language is a significant part of communication whether it is done on the internet or in day to day life away from the internet. In day to day lives, people will naturally gravitate towards their first language which is usually the one that they are most comfortable speaking. However, when it comes to the internet, things change a lot. Certain languages dominate the online world while others are nigh extinct. So what happens to the people who do not prefer or even understand the dominating languages? These people may very well have some of the fastest internet connections, but if they cannot read what is on the web pages they visit, then their fast connection is rendered useless. A research in 2015 into the top languages used by the internet in comparison to the languages that had the most speakers presented some very thought-provoking results.

Most Common Languages Around the World

The list of languages with the most speakers in the world was dominated by the Chinese language with an estimated 1.2 billion people speaking it as their first language. Spanish was second with around 0.4 billion people, followed by English in third with an estimated number of 0.36 billion speakers worldwide. Hindi comes fourth in the list with 0.26 billion speakers, while Arabic closed the top five with an estimated 0.24 billion speakers. Other notable languages in the list include Russian with 0.17 billion speakers, Japanese with 0.13 billion speakers, German, French, and Korean all with 0.08 billion speakers each. Italian also made the list with 0.06 billion speakers.

Languages Most Commonly Used by the Web

In comparison, the languages used by the web were very different. In real life, English had only 0.36 billion speakers placing third on the list. On the web, however, English was first with 54.4% of the ten million websites researched showing that they used English. Russian had an estimated number of speakers at 0.17 billion, while on the web Russian had 5.9% of the total websites using the language. German was a close third with 5.7% of the total websites using German. The Japanese language was fourth with 5.0% while Spanish closed the top five with 4.7%. The languages that were grouped as “other” had a share of 11.4%.

Is the Internet Killing Some Languages?

Data shows that the number of languages used on the internet is gradually decreasing despite more and more people beginning to use the internet. Interestingly though, the number of languages supported by some of the popular websites increased. For example, Google Translate increased the number of the supported languages from 68 in 2012 to 91 at the end of 2015. Twitter’s language base also expanded from 21 in 2012 to more than twice that number in 2015 with 48 supported languages. There was also growth in other companies like Facebook, Wikipedia, and Google Search.

However, the above data should not confuse anyone. Just because Google is supporting a particular language does not actually mean that the majority of the world’s population uses the language. The fact remains that there is a deficiency of diversity on the languages used on the internet. These technology giants may be doing their part in reviving or persevering some languages but the rest of the world and other small companies do not have websites in that many languages with more than half the world preferring English.

Languages Most Commonly Used By The Web

RankContent language% of websites using the content language
1English54.4%
2Russian5.9%
3German5.7%
4Japanese5.0%
5Spanish4.7%
6French4.1%
7Korean2.6%
8Chinese2.2%
9Italian2.1%
10Polish1.9%
11Others11.4%

More in Society