Last Friday, this BBC News article caught my eye. It’s based on new research from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), which purports that a “new” internet is arriving by 2016. What does this “new” internet look like, you ask? It looks global.
BCG reports that “by 2016, there will be 3 billion Internet users globally, and the Internet economy will reach $4.2 trillion in the G-20 nations.” Also, the majority of internet users will be in emerging markets (China, anyone?), and 80% of internet users in G-20 nations will access the internet via mobile devices.
The Elephant in the Room
Those facts are exciting – and confirm what us Smartlings already know: the global web is here (and growing). But did you notice what’s missing? Language. There’s not a word about language in the report (or any of the articles mentioning it). I wonder why it’s not addressed. All of these people, across the globe, are getting online – and, guess what? Most of them are non-English speakers! (Even if they do speak English as a second language, they’d prefer to interact online in their native tongue.)
According to BCG, the “new” internet is “global, ubiquitous and participatory.” The “new” internet is a place where “geography doesn’t matter anymore.” The bottom line?: “Every business needs to go digital.” But how can you participate in the global web without being global? Going digital is not enough.
Let’s Talk About It
Language is one of the last true barriers on the web. Right now, there are 2 billion internet users globally, and 73% are non-English speakers. But 56% of web content is in English. Why doesn’t that seem right?
If you watched a timeline of the percentages of languages online from 2000 to 2011, you’d see English shrink (from 38% to 27%) and other languages (German, Italian, Portuguese, etc.) grow. You’d see the global web coming alive, and with BCG’s projections of 3 billion people online by 2016 (with the majority of them in emerging markets), how many will you reach with an English-only website? Not that many.
So, think about what it means to be part of the global web. Think about going multilingual and why you should. Then go do it – the world is waiting.