Internet Users by Region and Language

This post on Internet users by region and language originally appeared on this blog on May 29, 2012. It now includes an update.

According to an infographic in the online magazine Génération Nouvelles Technologies, Asians represent 45% of the world’s Internet users (see Figure 1). Far behind are Europeans (23%), North Americans (13%), and Africans (6%). See the following figures for Internet users by region and language.

Internet Users by Region

internet users by region

Figure 1. Internet users by region. Image: GNT

Internet Users by Language

English is still the most widely spoken language on the Internet, with 27% of users (see Figure 2). However, Chinese will likely overtake English by 2014. After English and Chinese, the next most common first languages are Japanese (8%) and Spanish (5%). Behind these are German (4%), Portuguese (4%), French (3%), and Korean (2%).

internet users by region

Figure 2. Breakdown of Internet users by language. Image: GNT

Internet Users by Region and Language: UPDATE

In August 2012, research firm Common Sense Advisory published updated data on Internet users by region (or, more specifically, Internet users by language). Below are some of the key findings from CSA’s report:

  • Chinese has outpaced English in terms of online reach: Chinese reaches 22.7% of people online, while English reaches 21.6%. (The prediction from Génération Nouvelles Technologies about Chinese dethroning English as the top Internet language by 2014, then, appears to have come true two years early.)
  • To reach 80% of Internet users, content must be available in 12 languages. Chinese, English, Spanish, and Japanese are the top four; see Figure 3 for the complete list.
  • The number of languages required to reach a given percentage of Internet users increases over time. This reflects the fact that minority languages are gaining currency on the Web.
  • The reach of some languages (English, German) is lower in percentage terms than the web-based economic opportunity attached to those languages. In other words, economies where English and German are spoken are wealthier than their populations would suggest numerically.
  • The reach of other languages (Chinese, Indonesian) is higher in percentage terms than the web-based economic opportunity attached to those languages. In other words, economies where Chinese and Indonesian are spoken are weaker than their populations would suggest numerically.
internet users by region

Figure 3. Which languages matter most online? Research by Common Sense Advisory. Click to download infographic.

If you liked this post, you might like another article on the Internet and language. People without broadband access can’t get information digitally. What’s more, many languages aren’t even well represented on the Internet.