May 1, 2006 · Tim Wu
One theme in the book is that an evolving balkanization of the internet is often driven by consumer preference. A good example is the suprising decline in the use of the English language on the Web.
From Ch. 3
The Economist confidently stated in in 1996 that “English may now be impregnable established as the world standard language: an intrinsic part of the global communications revolution.” A New York Times article written the same year, titled “World Wide Web: Three English Words,” asserted that “if you want to take full advantage of the Internet there is only one real way to do it: learn English.”
That turned out not to be true. English was dominant at first. But it faded fast. By the end of 2002, less than half of the web pages were still in English, and the flights from English just continued — babelization, if not balkanization.
Today, David Sifry and Ethan Zuckerman write on “the surprising possibility that Japanese may have unseated English as the dominant language of the blogosphere.” According to Sifry’s fascinating survey, ”
Something that may come as a surprise (at least to the English-speaking world) is that English isn’t the biggest language of the blogosphere. In fact, English isn’t even the primary language of one third of all posts that Technorati tracks anymore.
If you look at the survey, you’ll notice other oddities too. French accounts for but 2% of technocrati blogging, for example, despite being one of the world’s most widespread languages.
So much for those ten years I spent in French lessons (yet fortunate that I’ve had 3 months of Japanese, kamon).