“Great Firewall” or not, Chinese Web surfers have overtaken the intertubes and so, it turns out, has their mother tongue. The stats are in: Chinese is poised to outpace English as the dominant language online.
Some say we (sort of) have Al Gore to thank for the Internet, but it may as well have been made in China: the number of Web users in the Middle Kingdom soared to 450 million—more than a third of the country’s population—this year, according to Wang Chen, head of China’s State Council Information Office. The U.S. boasts just under half that many, but since English is more widely spoken globally, a majority of sites are published in that language.
Not for much longer. An infographic by Nextweb, based on statistics culled by the marketing firm Internet World Stats, shows that—with Web use in China growing at such a rapid rate—it could take less than five years for Chinese to become the most popular language on the Net.
With the boom in China’s Internet usage has come a rise in government censorship. Sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are still frequently off-limits to its denizens. China’s extensive Internet policing system this year shut down more than 60,000 websites deemed harmful or politically subversive. It’s safe to say that almost all the rest of them speak Beijing’s language, or will soon. (via Discovery News)