Chinese will become the Web's most used language by 2007, outranking English, as more and more people get online.
That, at least, is what WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) said yesterday in Geneva, reported by the FT. At the moment, there is a slight majority of English-speaking worldwide Internet users (460 million of us). But by next year, most will not have English as a first language and by 2003, a third will use a different language on the Web.
According to WIPO, the bias stemming from the Internet's invention and early take-up in the US is soon to pass as millions more multilingual domain names come online. Several big companies are working at including non-Latin characters into the Internet infrastructure, opening up script-languages like Chinese, Japanese, Arabic etc and allowing for accents to be introduced.
WIPO believes that once it is possible to communicate effectively in your first language, people will do just that - to the detriment of the number of English Web pages.
Of course, you should bear in mind that this prediction was made at the start of a two-day conference in Geneva hosted by WIPO and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), dedicated almost entirely to the issue of multilingual domain names. The ITU is concerned about the practical and technical problems, WIPO is interested only in intellectual property and dispute resolution - the business from which it is now making a small fortune. ®