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.


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