June 16, 2023

Today's Topics

Hello! If you're a frequent flyer who likes to complain about your flights, you've probably had a lot to talk about in recent years — analysis from the IATA found a 47% spike in unruly passenger incidents in 2022. Today's charts explore:

  • Bridging the gap: At a global level, income inequality continues to fall.
  • Playing both sides: Regulators aren't happy with Google's ad practices.
  • Web of language: English dominates the internet.
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Bridging the gap

Despite current discourse around the widening chasm between the richest and poorest, income inequality at a global level has actually fallen to its lowest level for ~130 years, according to a leading researcher on the subject.

Branko Milanovic, a revered economist and author, attributes the growing financial equality to the rise of Asia in recent years, particularly China, and touts India as a potential future power in driving inequality down even further.

More equal

There are many ways to slice and dice income data. The preferred measure for many economists is the Gini Index, which ranks income inequality on a scale from 0-100. A reading of zero would mean everyone on Earth had an even share of the world’s income, 100 indicates the opposite — where a single person had all the world’s income. From a global perspective, it is this reduced inequality between countries that has been the driving force of the Gini Index falling to its lowest level in more than a century, even though inequality within individual countries may have widened.

The industrial revolution, or the Great Divergence as some economic historians have come to know it, saw global income inequality accelerate as Western nations pulled away from countries like China and India where per-capita income stagnated or fell. Estimates of the Gini Index rose from ~49 to 62 between 1820 and the early 20th century. Declines in the last 20 years, however, have been even steeper than the ascents of yesteryear, and continued economic growth in many lower and middle income countries suggests that the Gini Index has likely continued to fall.

The view from Brussels

The European Commission has charged Google with abusing its dominant position in the advertising tech industry, mirroring a similar lawsuit filed by the US DoJ back in January.

The EC alleges that Google has exploited its control on both the buy side, assisting advertisers in securing ad placements, and the sell side, helping publishers fill their available ad space. Essentially, putting the company in a position to dictate the meeting point of demand and supply.

Even though the charges relate to only a small part of Google's business, the prevailing view from Brussels is that a “structural remedy” is the best solution. That could see Google have to carve off parts of its behemoth ad business.

All about ads

Indeed, despite its many marvelous pieces of technology — Google Earth, its self-driving car project, Google Cloud — Alphabet still makes the vast majority of its revenue in the very same way that this humble newsletter does: advertising. Through serving billions of ads across Google Search, YouTube and the wider Google Network, Alphabet brought in a staggering $224bn in ad revenue last year — nearly 80% of the company’s total.

Google's dominance in the advertising realm is admittedly gradually diminishing. It currently captures 27% of all digital advertising revenue in the US — still the most of any company, but down from its 37% share in 2015. Meta holds the second position, but has seen a similar squeeze in its share — most notably from Amazon, which has quickly captured ~12% of the US market, as shoppers increasingly start their search for products on Amazon itself.

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Universal language

For more than 5.1 billion people (per a recent count), the internet has become an invaluable tool for education, entertainment and connection. For almost as many international netizens, however, a great portion of the online space is simply in the wrong language. English overwhelming dominates the internet, being used by more than 55% of online domains, according to a study published by Rest of World as of May 2023.

That makes English's representation on the internet more than 10x the 4.7% of the world’s population that speak it as their primary language. That’s the most staggering overrepresentation, although other nations like Japan, France, and Germany also see their languages overrepresented. Conversely, Chinese language groups like Mandarin and Min are employed on just 1.4% of web domains, despite being spoken as a primary language by 16.4% of the world’s population.

One UNESCO expert is concerned that, in 15 years, there will be “just 5 or 10 languages spoken prominently in business and online”.

Lost in translation

The World Wide Web was created by London-born computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee in 1989, before it was launched into the public domain in 1993. Predictably, English dominated the early portion of the internet, accounting for ~80% of online content in the mid-90s. Since then, things have only shifted modestly — the UN's efforts to get global universal internet access by 2030 could accelerate the pace of change.

Go deeper: With the full data analysis from Rest of World.

More Data

• Remote Irish islands are offering €80,000 to people choosing to move there, as long as you purchase a previously vacant property on one of the islands.

South Korean tech giant Samsung is the latest company to experiment with the 4-day workweek, offering staff one Friday off each month.

Twitter is being evicted from its Boulder office over unpaid rent, with a cleaning company also seeking ~$94k in unpaid fees.

Hi-Viz

• Huge swathes of Reddit went dark this week in protest. Cool analysis and visual of how much of the site's content was "missing".

Off the charts: 21-year-old Max Park just set a breath-taking record-breaking time for solving a 3x3x3 Rubik’s Cube, but how quickly to the nearest second did he complete the puzzle? [Answers below].

A) 3 seconds

B) 9 seconds

C) 27 seconds

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