Web of language: English dominates the internet

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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.

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Web of language: English dominates the internet
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