China is currently second to the United States in Internet users (at 80 million in 2003 compared to our 185 million) but will surpass the United States within five years, according to Forbes Global. On any given day, nine of the world’s 25 busiest websites are situated in China. Yahoo! and eBay are coming on strong in competition with locally entrenched portals. Even without China-based offices, Google attracts 40 percent of China’s search users.
Clearly, the search portal that wins in China will have the lead in users globally. While Google has the lead today, I suspect that an entirely new search engine, likely based in China itself, may be that leader five years from now.
Amy Campbell alerted me to a very interesting graphic on the Google Zeitgeist page. It tracks the languages used to access Google over the past two years:
Google handles more than 200 million queries a day from around the world. Increasingly, these queries are not in English. Over the past few years, Google has aggressively localized its search engine for more than 60 languages. These language-specific search engines are very important to Google’s continued growth, since the majority of new Internet users are not native-English speakers.
Keep a close eye on that tiny purple streak representing Chinese; it’s sure to expand. While there are only about 100 million German speakers in the world, there are well over a billion Chinese speakers. Also expect to see Arabic (200 million speakers) make an entrance in a few years.
Google began in 1998 as an English-language search engine. My, how times — and the Internet — have changed. And, if you’re interested, Google is looking for an International Webmaster.