Tuesday, November 14, 2006

IHT celebrates web imperialism

Last week comScore released a study about Web traffic in September. The US office and the European office produced different press releases. The US office stated that more than half of top 25 US web properties generate more traffic from outside the US than from within. The only European site in the top 30 thirty of traffic grabbers is Lycos, which is Spanish now but originally of US offspring. The European office stated that there was only one European site in the top ten traffic grabbers in Europe in 6 European countries, namely France Telecom:
1. Google Sites
2. Microsoft Sites
3. Yahoo! Sites
4. eBay
5. Time Warner Network
6. Wikipedia Sites
7. Amazon Sites
8. France Telecom(ii)
9. Adobe Sites
10. Ask Network

Source comScore

Victoria Shannon of the International Herald Tribune immediately made a big spiel about this study, using the headline The End User: Content vs. control. Her thesis was: If the question of control is about content, then the United States has a lock on the World Wide Web that looks unshakable.

In my view this statement is only right if you only look at Internet as an English language service. Sure, Google is used a lot. It is for example the top search service in The Netherlands. But many Dutch people use the service to find a Dutch language site. Of course there is a Dutch search engine, Ilse, but that search service is less complete than Google. If you take this reasoning one step further, you will find that the Chinese search service Baidu will succeed Google in 2008, when the Olympics will be held in Beijing. Such a perspective must come as a shock for Americans by that time.

This American web imperialism points to another problem. In the top 10 of the thirty web properties there are 4 US search engines. In the top 30 there is only one European search engine (as said from US parentage). But there are many search sites in the local language pointing people to sites in their local language. In other words the local language websites have never been combined over against English language American sites. So many websites are not sought after as they are put in a language other than English. Of course Google has taken the trouble to index sites in more than 115 languages, but this still leaves out a lot of not indexed websites.

It also calls for more language tools. For, at present you can search for elections in English and verkiezingen in Dutch. But when you key in the Dutch word for elections verkiezingen, as we will have elections in The Netherlands next week, the results will not contain any English language articles on the US Congress and Senate elections. So a multilingual search tool would be most interesting. Of course, at present you will get already a lot of redundant references and links and with such a language tool you probably will get an amount of results, which is difficult to handle. But giving the user the power to select the languages wanted, could shed another light on a lot of subjects, which are now dominated by English/American orientated search engines.


Blog Posting Number: 569


hoong said...

Same old, same old

Digital divide vs. language divide. A point that I have been argueing for the past 5,6,7,8 years. And I am not even an expert.

The problem is, as you have pointed out, the internet is dominated by MONOlingual presence, English, especially English from the US, UK and to some extent Australia. Therefore most of the research papers, forums, and what-have-you come from this one-sided observation and opinion.

If you look at Wikipedia, you will find there are zillions entry in the English language. I am very happy (and proud) to say Dutch language is one of the TOP 10. But, that is not so in other languages. But does that mean that people from these countries are less 'digitial' (such as S. Korea and Japan) vs. the US, UK?

But there is another issue: Cultures. The cultures of American and the British, especially the American, is a ME, ME, ME know, ME first society. On the other hand, Japan, S. Korea and to a large extent,most European countries, are more subdue, cautious, and only speak/write when they are pushed, ready .... etc.

Content vs. control -- (unfortunately I am not able to read the document at this point) ... we also have to take this opinion as a pinch of salt. Do we measure content by QUALITY or should we look at QUANTIFY?

I always feel the English speaking world, because of their center stage dominance therefore there dosen't seems the need to learn another language, is missing out a lot of what is going on outside of their langauge realm. It is something they should be concerned. Is ONE vs MANY.

On the other hand, would I be worry about the 1.6 billions Chinese? Personally I don't think so. Chinese is a very self-centered people. They have a very short-sighted and limited scope in dealing most things. If you understand the long history of China, you would understand why there were so many Chinese inventions never get to see the world. The Chinese society promote the doctrine of 'keeping within the family'. It is a different ME, ME, ME mentality. They would ONLY share when there is profit/benefit for them. And one can easily recognize this fault with the way thery deal with the RMB, the way they use WTO to their benefits etc. etc. Therefore I don't think Chinese would publish anything important/substancial on the internet. There might be plenty of traffics in 2008 during the olympic games. Again my question is: Quantity vs QUALITY.

Jak Boumans said...

@Hoong. I think I disagree with you on the Chinese. I have been twive to China and I am deeply impressed. Just the demographics are impressive. Almost 50 percent of the population is between 18 and 35 years old and speak English well (translators are for their teachers). they come up and ask you a copy of your lecture on their memory stick. They are very eager to learn.
The Chinese people I met were very outgoing and eager to discuss world issues with you.

hoong said...

Yes. Eager to learn. Eager to WANT information. BUT are they eager to SHARE? That is what I am trying to say.

Digitial access and availability shorten the time, the distance to bring and receive information. And information is knowledge. Knowledge is power. The idea behind Digital libraries such as Wikipedia, and weblogs etc. is to share knowledge. Since these young people speak English, therefore there should not be any problem for them to share their thoughts, their findings with the rest of the English speaking (knowing) world. But do they? And how many?

If we consider there is 1.6 billions Chinese in China. Assuming 50 millions are well educated (I am just picking a number. No research done)there should be a lot more Chinese articles appear at Wikipedia. But they are not. I understand Baidu created something similar to Wikipedia about a year ago. I have no idea how many articles they have generated so far, but, Baidu is a commercial enterprise therefore the 'sharing of knowledge' is based on interest of commerce.

China is not an open society. It was not before the communist regime. And the communist makes the people even less willing to share. To understand Chinese in China, one really has to understand the long history and the cultures of that country. Much would be the same for any country, really. To really understand the people, one has to live there, speak their language, and MOST of all, I hate to say this, one should not be a westerner. As most Westerner arriving in China has a different status. To really understand the society, one has to go down to their level. At the minimum, the middle class.

PERHAPS I am too harsh in saying they are not willing to share. Perhaps they just do not know what sharing is.