Friday, June 25, 2010

The most people ever on the Internet, as long as they speak English

Mashable reports that the recent US-Algeria soccer game sent levels of Internet traffic to the highest level ever recorded. That seems somewhat surprising, until you realize, of course, that Internet traffic is not like TV ratings, in that it's higher now than it was five years ago. The highest Internet traffic ever was probably two years ago at the start of the World Cup.

That much is safe to say, and it's also safe to say that the traffic levels around the World Cup final will be similar. However, whether the soccer game, coupled with an England-Slovenia soccer game, was an equal to the first day of the World Cup is doubtful.

Consider how these numbers are recorded: they are calculated from traffic at 100 news sites that do business with Akamai. Akamai is described by Wikipedia as "a company that provides a distributed computing platform for global Internet content and application delivery." It is truly a child of the techno-buzzword-laden late '90s, founded in 1998. At any rate, a sampling of these sites shows them to be either American or European.

The Internet, by contrast, is not the pure English-speaking domain that we would like it to be. China has the most users, followed by America, Japan and India. In the top three alone, we have about 600 million people that are neither white nor speak English, fully a third of the Internet population of 1.8 billion. Spikes in traffic on American sites really aren't all that informative as a result, at least if you want to make broad statements about the most Internet users ever.

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