February 8th, 2009
I had missed this story until The Economist brought it to my attention. comScore, which maintains a “massive proprietary database that provide(s) a continuous, real-time measurement of the myriad ways in which the Internet is used and the wide variety of activities that are occurring online,” reported on January 23rd that China had surpassed the United States in the total number of Internet users: “with 180 million Internet users, representing nearly 18 percent of the total worldwide Internet audience, followed by the U.S. (16.2 percent share) [with 163 million users].” Japan was a distant third with 6% share or some 60 million users.
I think we can all suspect the significance of this event without fully appreciating all aspects of its impact. This has certainly long been predicted. Stated most simply, if your website is published in English only, you are failing to reach a great portion of the largest audience(s) in the world (even given that many Chinese can deal to some extent with English). Now how do we smaller websites figure out how to publish in multiple languages (a) at a price we can afford and (b) with sufficient translation quality so as not to embarrass ourselves in a horrendous fashion?