Who Reads Wikipedia? New Statistics From the Wikimedia Foundation
The English Wikipedia (en.WP) receives 46.7% of the page views (down from 53.4% in 2009), and remains dominant among WMF sites. The next most popular WPs are the Spanish and Japanese (at just over 7%), the Russian (nearly 6%), the German (5.4%), and the French (4.2%).
Surprisingly, the average rate at which internet users view en.WP pages is higher in many countries than in the six major countries with a native English-speaking majority (the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand). Among those six, en.WP is by far the most popular in Canada, with 16 views per month, and would be higher still if adjusted for the fact that more than one in five Canadians is a native speaker of French. The UK and Ireland came in next, with 13 views per month, followed by the US, Australia, and NZ on 11 per month.
Aside from the six major English-speaking countries, the WP viewing patterns of almost every country focus almost entirely on two WPs (in a few cases three); English is usually the second most popular, with tiny percentages going to other WPs. Over the past four years, the Arab world has seen particularly sharp movements away from the colonial languages towards the Arabic WP. Egypt, for example, has reversed from a 62/30 English/Arabic split to 40/53; this has been repeated almost exactly in Saudi Arabia, and to a lesser extent in some other Arab nations. Where French is a major choice, it too has tended to recede along with en.WP. To what extent is this related to the Arab spring, and a sense of increasing pride and independence in Arab culture and language? And to what extent is it a product of any greater scope and depth on the Arabic WP?
Brazil shows a similar relation between English and Portuguese, although there has been a slight move towards en.WP over the past six months. Every Portuguese-speaking country had a precipitous drop in the use of the Portuguese WP in 2010, including Angola,Mozambique, Namibia, East Timor, and Portugal itself. The Signpost has yet to ascertain whether this, and indeed the peak in en.WP traffic around the same time, were artefacts of the data-gathering system.
The three German-speaking countries—Germany, Austria, and Switzerland—have all seen a move away from German and towards English. It has been suggested that this may be connected with a resistance to the coverage of popular culture on the German WP. In Switzerland (Fig. 5), where French is also a major language, the popularity of German is more recently eroding in favour of English, and to a lesser extent French. Luxembourg has seen German usage fall significantly in favour of French and English. However, in neighbouring Belgium, both official languages—Dutch and French—have been gaining the edge on English.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.