I was looking at some archival stats on Internet usage.
Compare the Top 10 Internet languages in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and the latest (Dec 2009 for me, your mileage may vary as that link is dynamic).
Look at the 2004 numbers: it is very much the core, developed, First world, China aside.
Still, its pitiful penetration numbers aside... what was (is?) wrong with France, Spain and Portugal? Their penetration numbers are China-like (~10%), whereas the rest of Europea was around 50%.
Now, look at 2010. In addition to China, whose penetration number have improved greatly (from 2004's 8% to 29.7%), note the inclusion of Arabic (17.5%) and Russian (32.3%).
Oh, don't get confused with langauges and countries. I was for a moment shocked with low penetration numbers for French, Spanish and Portugal, but remember - those languages are spoken in many periphery, developing, Third World countries in Africa and Latin & South America- thus the pitiful results (here are EU stats, and here is a breakdown for Spanish language, for example).
One of the most interesting numbers, for me, is the diminishing percentage of English-speakers as the % of Internet users - from 35.9% in 2004 to 30.1% in 2009.
And how about tripling of Internet users totals in non-Top 10 languages (from 100m to 300m), or nearly doubling of Internet users totals (from 800m to 1,400m) in that period?
Around 2006 the stat site started to report "Internet Growth for Language (since 2000)". For 2006, it was 128% for English, 346% for Chinese, 436% for non-Top 10 languages, and 189% for all languages. In 2007, Arabic enters the chart, with 940% growth (!). For 2009 we have 251.7% for English, 1162% for Chines, 2297% for Arabic, 525% for non-Top-10 languages and 400% for the world.
Global digital divide still exists, no doubt about that. But it is being bridged, as the rest of the world is catching up. 'bout time...
PS. Here's an interesting take on this from The Economist.
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