Chinese drawing even with English on global websites

Over the past decade Simplified Chinese has grown to become one of the most popular languages on global websites, second only to English.

According to the Web Globalization Report Card, which has long monitored languages supported by the world’s leading brands, Chinese was seen on only about six out of ten websites in 2006.

Today, it is seen on virtually every global website.

chinese language growth

That’s not to say languages such as French, German and Spanish aren’t important as well. In fact, French is right on par with Chinese, followed by German, Japanese, and Spanish.

Here are the top 10 languages overall:

top 10 languages

I should also note that Russian has seen a significant rise in usage over the past decade. In 2006, Russian was seen on only 42% of all global websites and now it’s up to 87%.

But there are language gaps still remaining. Arabic, for example, is spoken by more than 240 million people but only half of all global websites support it (so far).

And Hindi, with more than 260 million speakers, sees a paltry 4% of global website support — many companies cling to the hope that English will be sufficient for India. Perhaps for today but not for long. Consider that companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter have embraced Hindi, as well as other Indic languages, foreshadowing a time when other companies will be compelled to follow their lead.

To learn more, check out the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card.

To learn more, check out the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card.

Global Gateway Fail: Yandex

Yandex is Russia’s leading search engine and, following in Google’s footsteps, is eager to take over much of Russia’s Internet, which naturally includes the web browser.

Yandex is also in the process of expanding its reach beyond Russia.

But when I visited the web browser download web page I couldn’t help but notice a few problems with the global gateway.

Shown below is the only “English” option for me.  The use of the UK flag signals to me that Yandex doesn’t yet have a web browser available for American web users. But perhaps Yandex is using the flag to simply indicate language, but I can’t be sure either way. What I am sure of is that flags are usually a bad idea in global gateways.

yandex_gateway

Flags often limit the reach of a language, so use them only if you’re focused on specific ecommerce/legal scenarios. If, for example, your goal is to reach the maximum number of English speakers around the world don’t use the flag of one English-speaking country.

Clicking on the Select Language link brings up the following menu. Take a quick look and see if anything looks a bit odd to you…

yandex_gateway2

You might notice the use of Spain’s flag to indicate “Spanish.”  Granted, the localization could be specific to Spain only, but I’d bet that Yandex would prefer that most Spanish speakers download the app and not just Spaniards.

I also didn’t realize that Brazil’s dominant language was  known as Brazilian. Actually, it’s not. It’s supposed to be called Brazilian Portuguese. Another global gateway fail.

So I’d say at this point, based purely on the global gateway, that Yandex has a ways to go before world domination.

Domain name registrations surpass 280 million

According to Verisign’s domain name industry brief, TLD registrations hit 280 million in the second quarter of 2014.

Here’s a list of the leading domains overall:

top-TLDs

Note that the .TK ccTLD is technically a country code but is marketed as a generic TLD, and quite successfully it seems. So Germany is effectively the leading ccTLD.

Interesting data points:

  • Country codes, at 129 million registrations, account for more than half of all domain names registered
  • The top 10 ccTLDs comprise 66.3% of all ccTLD registrations
  • The new wave of generic TLDs haven’t made much of impact yet in terms of registrations

Link

From Russian to Arabic to Chinese, new TLDs have arrived

Cyrillic IDNs

This screen is from a website advertising two new top level domains in Cyrillic.

Here are the two domains and what they represent:

.САЙТ (Website)

.ОНЛАЙН (Online)

Two other domains that were recently approved by ICANN were in Arabic and Chinese:

شبكة  (Network)
游戏  (Game)

This is just the tip of iceberg. Many more non-Latin domains are in the pipeline for approval, the bulk of them being Chinese domains. Amazon and Google are among the many prospective applicants.

Even the Angry Birds creators are getting into the game. Here are the two domains they’ve procured:

.在线 (Online)
.中文网 (Chinese site)

Chinese language TLDs

From this article about the two new Chinese domains acquired by the Angry Birds duo:

…the entrepreneurs see these two new ones as common sense options, as many people already use the terms “___online” and “___Chinese site” when searching for things on the web. For example, a Chinese person might typically search for “Nokia Chinese site” (in Chinese, of course), so it’d make sense for Nokia to buy that new URL. “It’s bringing your brand closer to the search term,” Simon points out.

It’s also argued that the new ‘.online’ and ‘.Chinese site’ options are easier for China’s mobile netizens to write on their smartphones, sticking 100 percent to their Chinese keyboard rather than switching to English to type out, say, “Tmall.com”. China currently has 460 million mobile web users.

According to the ICANN blog post Dawn of a New Internet Era:

It’s no accident that the first tranche of gTLDs to be delegated are all non-Latin strings – or as we officially refer to them, Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) gTLDs. In addition to facilitating competition and innovation through the New gTLD Program, one of ICANN’s key aims is to help create a globally inclusive Internet, regardless of language or region. For this reason, we elected to prioritize the processing of IDN applications and their delegation.

Will these new domains succeed?

I think some of them will, and hugely so. I also think it will take time. And perhaps a few new brand names that lead with these domains instead of using them as fallback domains.

Despite the many criticisms of the gTLD program, as I noted earlier, the Internet needs to open the door for URLs in other scripts.

That door is now open.

 

 

 

The next Internet revolution will not be in English

taking .com global  IDNs

Imagine if, every time you wanted to visit a website, you were expected to type in letters from a foreign language, or worse, an entirely foreign script, such as Arabic, Cyrillic, or Chinese.

For more than a billion people, this is how they experience the Internet today.

The Internet was designed to be global, but it was not designed to be multilingual. For decades, this limitation was most evident in website and email addresses, which permitted only a small set of Latin characters.

Fortunately, over the past decade much work has been done to allow website addresses to support non-Latin characters, referred to as internationalized domain names (IDNs). More than 30 countries, ranging from Saudi Arabia to South Korea, now support country code domains in their native scripts.

For example, Russians no longer have to register a domain using the Latin (.ru) country code and may instead use the Cyrillic equivalent .Рф. And evidence of these new URLs are becoming more visible. Kremlin’s new Cyrillic URL is http://президент.рф. The leading Russian search engine Yandex can be located at http://Яндекс.рф, and the address of Russia’s largest mobile carrier is http://МТС.рф. These addresses are fully functional, and modern web browsers support them.

But what about a local-language equivalent of .com?

ICANN, the organization that manages the domain name system, is in the process of allowing not only local-language equivalents of .com, but an entirely new wave of top-level domains known as generic TLDs (gTLDs). More than a thousand applications have already been filed for these new domains, ranging from .apple (guess who applied for this one) to .book (yes, Amazon is hot for this domain, among others).

Much controversy has erupted over the value or need for all these new domains. Many people claim that .com is good enough, like Esther Dyson, who says “You are creating a business, like derivatives on Wall Street, that has no value.”

Dyson, I would assume, is speaking more about the introduction of Latin-based domain names, and I  understand where she’s coming from. But her sentiment implies that the Internet naming system is largely fine as is.

She is wrong.

For more than a billion web users, .com has always been a foreign address.

Local-language domain names do have value. And they will improve the usability of the Internet.

VeriSign, the registry that manages .com, is now pursuing a Russian transliteration: .ком, as well as variations in Chinese and Hindi.

And a number of companies have applied for local-language equivalents of their brand names. Amazon has applied for the Japanese version of its name (アマゾン), and Philips has applied for the Chinese-language equivalent of its name (飞利浦). Both names were recently approved by ICANN and could be functional by the end of this year. You can peruse all gTLD applications and their status here.

The fact is, IDNs are here, and many more are coming. And the regions these IDNs span constitute more than 2.5 billion people, most of whom do not speak English as a native language. The regions also represent where most of the growth in Internet usage will occur over the next decade.

We’re inching closer to a linguistically local Internet, in which people no longer have to leave their native languages to get where they want to go.

This is a positive development for making the Internet truly accessible to the world.