When Will The Web Stop Being U.S. Centric?

I’ve given out before about the fact that America and American internet users are not the end all and be all of the web.

In fact, if every single internet user in North America were to shuffle off this mortal coil simultaneously then the internet would loose less than 1/7th (one seventh) of its user base.

Just compare the numbers for 2009 as posted by Royal Pingdom and ask yourself why people look to America and the U.S. market for everything when even the European market has almost double the users?

  • 1.73 billion – Internet users worldwide (September 2009).
  • 18% – Increase in Internet users since the previous year.
  • 738,257,230 – Internet users in Asia.
  • 418,029,796 – Internet users in Europe.
  • 252,908,000 – Internet users in North America.
  • 179,031,479 – Internet users in Latin America / Caribbean.
  • 67,371,700 – Internet users in Africa.
  • 57,425,046 – Internet users in the Middle East.
  • 20,970,490 – Internet users in Oceania / Australia.

us centric globe

Comments

  1. says

    But you are comparing user count to innovation. Is it America’s fault that much of the amazing Web 2.0 stuff we have today is coming from America? No way!

    No one is preventing Europe, Asia, Latin America from making their own products.

    But indeed, why does the rest of the world look to America? Well, because American companies offer the best Web products at this point in time.

    I’m sure in the distant future that will change, especially as the Web matures.

    Also, patents, trademarks, copyright is easier to maintain in the U.S. Our government won’t protect the consumer, but they sure as hell will protect business interests. ;P

    And it also helps that the entertainment industry is heavily embedded into the American marketplace.

    But things are changing. Just takes time. The Web is opening business up to the world slowly. I’m sure it’s a lot better than even 10 years ago.
    .-= James Mowery´s last blog ..Site News: What’s Going On Here? =-.

  2. says

    James, is it really coming from America or is it that much of the innovation that is happening in the “non english” web is simply being replicated by American companies, ignored by non English speaking users, not being covered by the U.S. centric media or simply being developed in other countries and shipped (in the virtual sense) back into America? Plus, there is also the fact that (and I’ll find the reference if you want it) the majority of tech companies in the U.S. do not have Americans at the helm or were not founded/started by Americans.

    Something to think about…

  3. says

    This isn’t a political blog and that wasn’t really a political comment, actually it was just a simple response to your statement.

    And as for American companies “stealing the IP”, I never said that.. I just said “replicating”, which is a common place and day to day habit of most sites.

    Just look at the “Twitification” of Facebook (can I use it like that?) if you want one example of a site (Facebook)replicating the popular features of another (Twitter).

  4. says

    I have to say as an American the numbers were a huge eye-opener for me. It is the American way to think that we are the great and mighty leaders of everything, but funny to see how little we mean in the grand scheme of things.

    As far as the technology side, Japan has kicked our asses for years, we are now trying to keep up with them. Europe and Asia were saturated with cellular phones long before they got a foothold here, and that’s just one example.

    Finally, leaders of web 2.0? I suspect there are many sites and services that are huge overseas that we just haven’t gotten yet. We think we are the leaders of web 2.0 because we know of the hugely successful American sites, but how would we know what’s popular in a language we don’t speak?
    .-= Sara´s last blog ..I Swore I’d Never Do It Again, But Last Night I Did =-.

  5. says

    Definition of replicate: to make an exact copy of (something);

    Replicating something without permission is stealing, no matter where at in the world you are. So by your choice of words, you insinuated that American companies are stealing. So, be sure to chose your words wisely, you could catch hell for that one in a real business environment.

    So, I was just going off what you stated, and yes, you basically said stealing (in a nicer way).

    Oh, and Twitter and Facebook are not “replicating” features. If anything, you might be able to claim they are replicating functionality, but even then, it isn’t an exact copy. Functionality is an idea.

    An idea isn’t protected under law (at least not in the U.S.)

    I do think it is really crummy what Facebook is becoming: http://jmowery.posterous.com/facebook-failed-everyone-why-im-no-longer-usi

    But can’t really make a claim that they are replicating functionality either. So, be careful as what you are claiming is essentially libel, and could get you in biiiiig trouble.
    .-= James Mowery´s last blog ..Site News: What’s Going On Here? =-.

  6. says

    Oh, and just random FYI: I love people from all over the world. I’m not an arrogant American by any stretch of the imagination. I actually get along with people from other countries (much easier than other Americans as well). Soccer (your football) is my favorite sport, for example. :P

    I just think that it is difficult to make a claim like yours without the evidence to back it up. So, I respectfully disagree.

    And trust me, people in China freely steal my content and post it on their own blogs and sites without as much as a link back to my site. So, my opinion of China is somewhat biased. And considering what’s happened with Google and China recently (which is still a developing story) it doesn’t look as good as it once did, at least as far as Google spreading the free and fun technologies over to Asian markets.
    .-= James Mowery´s last blog ..Site News: What’s Going On Here? =-.

  7. says

    James, American companies have replicated technology from sources that do not enjoy the same “protections” as the US offers and it has happened in reverse too, where US protection of copyright cannot be enforced.

    Also, replication of features is a mainstay of the computing environment. For example.. all browser have a “back” button.

    Don’t split hairs here. You know as well as I do, that idea, concept and feature poaching goes on as part of everyday online activity. If you were in a “real business environment” you’d know that.

    And I’m sure that I don’t need to inform you about what it means when you resort to quoting definitions in order to prove a point ;)

  8. says

    Okay, one more comment. I do think it is really messed up about how the American media companies keep content from other countries. One of my best friends in the UK always hates how he has to wait for TV shows, so he always resorts to torrenting and piracy. (I don’t blame him, I would too if I lived in the UK or elsewhere.)

    So, I know American companies (especially the media companies) fail horribly when it comes to international markets. It’s not fair to the rest of the world. However, if it was my way, everyone would have access to everything, regardless of what country they were from. It would be equal enjoyment for everyone.

    Alas, that is a utopian dream that will never come to fruition.
    .-= James Mowery´s last blog ..Site News: What’s Going On Here? =-.

  9. says

    Oh, with regards to the FYI James, I have an American fiance, so that should cover my bases on that one.

    And as for China ripping off your content, American spam blogs do it 24/7.. and again, sites replicate functionality of other sites all the time eg: Facebooks duplicating of Twitters “@” replies.

    And no, there is nothing in my post that I can be held liable for… Just 5 minutes on Google will prove that..

  10. says

    “James, American companies have replicated technology from sources that do not enjoy the same “protections” as the US offers and it has happened in reverse too, where US protection of copyright cannot be enforce”

    This happens everywhere in the world. Everywhere!

    I am not ignorant to this fact. But what you stated was false, libel. Own up to it. Don’t avoid it.

    And of course it happens. You are now implying that I am claiming that it doesn’t happen. That it doesn’t happen from American companies.

    Did you not read my comments about Facebook?

    Come on man. Be real.
    .-= James Mowery´s last blog ..Site News: What’s Going On Here? =-.

    • says

      James you might want to look up what libel means (under U.S law if you are so inclined). Also, feature replication, duplication, recreating.. call it what you will. It happens day in, day out.

      Also, while you’re at it.. look up functionality, features, ideas, concept, Intellectual property, patents… and anything else that comes to mind.

  11. says

    Regardless, I was agreeing with some of your points. I agree that it is awkward that other countries rely on American products, specifically as far as the Web goes. Like I said, I’m sure that will change. It already has been changing. Granted, it’s been slow moving.

    I just didn’t agree with your statements about American companies “replicating” functionality of other countries’ companies — it happens everywhere, and to single out America shows bias, which you probably didn’t intend, but I read it like it is, and that’s what I do.

    If you write it, I’ll respond to it.
    .-= James Mowery´s last blog ..Site News: What’s Going On Here? =-.

  12. says

    I tend to look at things from an objective point of view. So, again, I respectfully disagree.

    The simple fact is that regardless of how the products are being made, how they were invented, regardless of who stole or borrowed what… American companies are spurring innovation on the Web. And the Web is a global thing. Thus, it will trickle down to the rest of the world. India already has tons of brilliant minds and hard workers (that probably put the rest of the world to shame), like the guys at Zoho, that I’m sure will dominate in the future.

    In the end though, I simply think your bias is unwarranted. It’s bias for the sake of bias. And I don’t agree with that.
    .-= James Mowery´s last blog ..Site News: What’s Going On Here? =-.

    • Boris says

      Hilarious. You are not a fraction as unbiased as you assume you are. Oh, but what am I saying? You like ‘soccer’ so you must truly be a man of the world.

  13. says

    James, I do not have a need to be right (well okay – sometimes I do – but not right now), but I will not be “schooled” by someone about the “libelous statements” I am making and my “bias for the sake of bias”, when they obviously have no idea what libel is and completely ignored the title of the post.

    The post is about asking “why the world continues to have a U.S centered view of the internet. The internet is far greater and wider than the U.S. but everything including world media coverage fails to present that.” You also appear to share that U.S. centric view of the web and appear to have difficulty seeing beyond it.

    And the point of all this is to make you question that view, not defend it.

    If you don’t question things you’ll never grow.

    And thanks for the book recommendation, but rather than being “highly effective” at everything I prefer to question everything. It gives a broader perspective, something which can be a lot more beneficial than ignorance in a highly effective world.

  14. says

    I think there are several issues at play here that you are either choosing to overlook, or are just plain ignoring.

    One, number of “users” alone doesn’t tell the whole story.

    Asia – How much of that is blocked from the rest of the world (and how much of the world is blocked from parts of Asia)

    Europe – How many languages make up that “block?” of users?

    Now, I know you already are going to dispute this (since you did with Jason above), but like it or not, the largest and most visited sites were created and developed in the United States. Yahoo! (their search share may not be what it used to be, but it is still the largest webmail service in the world), Google (need I say more?), Microsoft, Facebook (now 4th largest site in the world), YouTube, and so on.

    In short though, the answer is really simple. When will the Internet become less US-centric? When there are more dollars to be had elsewhere.
    .-= JayMonster´s last blog ..JayMonster: Just In: Farve made a pass at airline attendant on flight home… unfortunately for Brett it was picked off. =-.

    • says

      JayMonster, there already are more dollars to be made outside of the US than in and companies like Google know this which is why they won’t pull of of China.

      Also what does the languages of Europe have to do with anything? Most (all) Europeans speak English as well. In fact, English is an official language of India with a population of 1,143,540,000 (wikipedia).

      Language is not the issue here. Nor is where sites are started.

      Take any of the top 10 sites or even all, and I will bet you that if you look up where their traffic comes from on Alexa there won’t be a single one that gets the majority of it’s traffic or even more than 40% of it from the US.

      The money is where the traffic is, the money is where the eyeballs are.

      Localization of sites is a trivial matter, most if not all do it already. So again, the question becomes why the US centric nature of site? The U.S. is not where the majority of the traffic comes from… The eyeballs are outside U.S. borders.. and many individual markets outside the U.S. are far, far bigger and still growing, not saturated like the American market.

      Also, looking at the top 500 sites, once you get out of the top 70 English speaking sites become a bit sparse and while there are many, many “.com” sites we all know that .com is the de facto and not a means to judge the origins or location of the site. For example, this is an English speaking site by an Irish man, in Ireland with a .com domain.

      What makes Alexa’s top 500 even more interesting is the prevalence of so many non U.S. sites, given that I would wager the vast majority of Alexa toolbar users are U.S. based. (Unfortunately I can’t find that data and Alexa doesn’t give data for Alexa.com either).

      But ultimately I am ranting on about something that is unimportant. The simple fact is that the users are all that are important. Users generate pageviews. Users generate ad sales.

      Data is sold, ads purchased and advertising deals entered into based on user numbers and demographics.

      Without users there is no advertising and no way to make money, which is why companies like Google take their operations worldwide.

      If the rest of the world wasn’t important, if there wasn’t enough money to be made, why not just block the rest of the world at the IP level and save the costs of staffing, maintaining, developing for and localizing, generating content for other countries and markets? (Obviously at this point that would never happen – but what if?)

      And one last point JayMonster… All I’m doing here is asking people to think beyond the obvious and “easy” answers :)

      And maybe I’m phrasing my question wrongs.. maybe it’s not about the U.S. centric nature of sites, rather than the U.S. centric nature of the media and those discussing them?

  15. says

    JayMonster, one last thing. Most of Asia is “not blocked”. And China (which is part of Asia) only blocks some information not all. Add to that Asia is a huge growing market which very low internet penetration, user numbers that dwarf the U.S. 3 fold and has a population of almost 4 billion. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asia

    Asia, is where the future is…
    :)

    Oh, with regards to the censorship blocking.. According to wikipedia this map displays the countries that censor content.. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_censorship) and no country blocks it completely. In fact, China, which is perhaps the worst, is till such a massive market that companies can’t afford to pull out of it…

  16. says

    I’ll be honest.. I never really thought about it, primarily because I use my international travels as an excellent opportunity to get AWAY from the internet.

    I’ve always been under the assumption that the internet would tend to be centric to whichever locale it’s based in. (British sites and services would naturally have a stronger presence in London than American sites and services etc.)

    Ideally, the internet itself provides an incredible opportunity to be “cloud-centric” that is not tied to any geographical location. (Aside from language barriers, although many sites offer translated versions.)

    My first opinion was that the problem began with our governments and their ideas of how the internet should be regulated. Each country has different laws and regulations regarding how the internet should be treated.

    However, after doing a little research, I now think that the main reason why the internet is US centric, is because the internet was created and developed in the US. InterNIC, Arpanet, Department of Defense, etc. etc. Since it began, the internet has been a US playground that has allowed other kids(countries) to come and play.

    No matter what country.. to even register a domain name, it has to come back to ICANN for registration, which is a US non profit.

    In short, the internet is US centric.. because the internet IS US centric.

    Now I’m not saying other countries don’t innovate groundbreaking technologies.. obviously they do.. but when it comes to getting them on the web, it’s still a US playground. =
    .-= thenathanbaker´s last blog ..Disclosures and FUD… =-.

    • says

      Great point Nathan :) Now, how do you think it would affect the landscape if say, ICANN became a UN body as has been suggested before (considering that the internet has grown to the point that it can exist with the US)..?

  17. says

    Personally, giving it to the UN is the last thing I would do. I have a lot of beefs with certain abuses of power that occur within the UN. I could definitely see the UN using the internet as a bargaining chip in unrelated political negotiations. (But that’s a different topic)

    Although, in a perfect world, I would support a separate international entity to regulate and oversee the internet. The International Committee of Data Communications, or something similar.. but in doing that, all governments everywhere would have to adapt and change laws to be in compliance with whatever policies the ICDC set forth. Not to mention how it would affect pricing for many different companies and corporations to provide access. For example, Comcast would most likely have to change a lot in order to qualify to offer internet access and their prices would also have to change.

    Also consider cellular companies offering internet, what even qualifies as internet, etc. (Point is.. it would be a huge impact)

    In the end, that could be a very good thing.. but giving how slow governments operate, it could be 15 years before the kinks were finally worked out. In the meantime, the whole world could be left in a state of quasi-limited internet.. and who knows for what price.

    Also, if I were the US, no way would I give up that power. I don’t see any international regulatory committee happening anytime soon.
    .-= thenathanbaker´s last blog ..Disclosures and FUD… =-.

    • says

      Nathan, with regard to the first paragraph, doesn’t that happen with the U.S. government to and couldn’t they, if push came to shove, start using it as a bargaining chip?

      Although, to be honest it’s hard to imagine the U.N.using it as a bargaining chip considering they are (or have) pushing for internet access to be a basic human right.

      I’m also wondering if the power will be just taken out of the hands of the US rather than be given up. Then network itself is more than robust enough to handle it?

      Interesting questions, even if it may never happen ;)

  18. says

    The problem with those numbers is that it lumps the US and Canada together and if there is anyone who feels the effects of the US centric attitude towards the Web and technology it’s those of us above the 49th parallel.

  19. says

    Just as a side note with a little bit of history. This US-centric attitude pre-dates even the Internet. Back in the day of FidoNET one of the fastest growing blocks of BBSs and FidoNET hubs was in Russia yet FidoNET is always remembered as an American organization.

    • says

      Very true. I remember in my BBS days where almost all of the boards I dialed into were in the UK (long distance phone charges were a bitch) but even then, everyone was looking towards the U.S.

      BTW. Thanks for the mention on Cynical Bastards last night :)

  20. says

    It’s not bias for the sake of bias. Let me make something perfectly straight to you.

    I have an American fiance, will be moving there to live when we get married. Have lots of American friends.

    This post is not about any particular bias that I hold, but the fact that the web is still a very U.S. centric and where that comes from.

    Sure some of it comes from innovation, but not all of it. Not even the majority of it and if you can’t open your eyes to that, question it and realize that the world is changing and the percentage of users in the world who are from the U.S. will continue to dwindle as other markets start to achieve decent internet penetration rates, then you will be left in the dust. Left in your very own little corner of the web, missing what is going on around you. In fact, that is already happening.

  21. says

    Perhaps I’m just a little paranoid when it comes to the UN. I support the idea and intentions of the UN, just not the current reality. (If that makes sense.)

    As far as US using it to abuse power, yes that is always a possibility too, and to be fair.. probably more likely.

    The network itself I think is stable enough to be US-independent (aside from ICANN). Will the power be taken away? Who knows, maybe hackers will be the saving grace…

    Interesting questions indeed..
    .-= thenathanbaker´s last blog ..Disclosures and FUD… =-.

  22. Chaps says

    The reason the internet is so US-centric is that the US itself is so US-centric. The vast majority don’t know anything nor do they care… so they focus on their patch and the rest of us scratch along the best we can. Not even our supposed “Fair Trade Agreement” even provide the slightest difference in sharing, pricing, licensing or access…

  23. Luka says

    Why? I think it boils down to several reasons.

    One is money. I guess americans are more likely to spend money on gadgets and they connect to itnernet.

    Other is prevalence of US pop culture. Be honest, in 2009 how many movies and TV shows you watched were not made in US. internet is same, we like reading about celebrities and they are mostly US ones. and I’m willing to bet that average irish is more interested in what US celebs are up to than what French, Italian or Polish ones are doing). Am I wrong?

    Third, the number of itnernet users is interesting but what would be even moe interesting is numberof people that own device they regulary use to log on. Be it desktop, laptop, iWhatever…..

    You can ahrdly comapre somebody who logs on once every few days in cybercaffee with somebody who has internet access at home (or wi-fi laptop). I think US here is leading (not coutning some small tech-savy countries who are, well, small and nobody really cares what is happening in Estonia unless they are shifting WW2 era monuments and even then not many do anyway).

    Language. English is becoming new Latin and US sites are well, in English. With English becoming practically required second language (this is happenning here in Slovenia where speaking English is required for better paying jobs and it’s not special skill anymore-speaking two foreign languages is). So sooner or later people will start browsing english language sites and that is likely american ones.

    My €0,02 anyway ;)

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