And by fast I mean really fast. In the past 10 years the use of Arabic on the Internet grew by an impressive 2500%. Whereas in the year 2000 only 2 million Arabic-speaking users surfed the world wide web, in 2011 there were 65 million of them. And with an estimated 280 million speakers of Arabic as their first language there is still room for growth.
In comparison, the second fastest growing language is Russian with 1826% followed by Chinese on third place with 1277%, Spanish with 743% and English with 281%.
Of course, these growth numbers are only possible because of the overall Internet penetration for each language. In Germany for example 79% of the population are connected to the Internet which resulted in an overall growth rate of “only” 174% for German on the Internet in the past decade. Japan with 78% Internet penetration saw a similar growth rate with 110%.
With more and more Arabic speakers coming online, there is, of course, the question if we are going to see more localized websites in Arabic as well. Today about 1.3% of all websites on the Internet are in Arabic. Still at the top spot is English with 56.6% of all websites followed by German with 6.5%.
A little known feature of the modern Internet is that non-latin speaking users can also use non-latin characters to browse the Internet. In May 2010 Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were the first Arabic speaking countries to implement the so called “internationalized” domain names (IDNs) on their servers. All in all 21 different countries representing 11 languages, including Chinese, Russian, Tamil, and Thai, had requested new IDN country codes.
Rod Beckstrom, President and CEO of ICANN said
“This isn’t just a minor change for the Internet, it’s a seismic shift that will forever change the online landscape. This is the beginning of a transition that will make the Internet more accessible and user friendly to millions around the globe, regardless of where they live or what language they speak.”
As you might remember, Arabic is predicted to be one of the top languages in 2050. With 215 million Arabic first language speakers that are not yet connected to the Internet there is still a huge potential left. Therefore, I am sure that the use of IDNs and the overall number of webpages in Arabic will also rise significantly over the coming years. So maybe it’s time to learn some Arabic?
Picture: Map of the Internet in 2005