Number of Indonesian speakers online vs. future online potential

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Now that we're on the subject of Indonesian, here's something interesting to think about. Internetworldstats has probably the most well-known list of top ten languages online here, which look like this:

"All the rest" actually works out to be a pretty huge number (250 million), which is a sign that the list should probably be expanded to perhaps the top fifteen or twenty instead. The site makes a number of assumptions for simplicity, first 1) that people in one country only speak the official language of the country, and 2) languages are separate entities with clear delineated borders.

Without these assumptions it would be nearly impossible to create a chart encompassing the whole world, but afterwards we can take a closer look at it to see which numbers turn out to be less representative of the real situation than they otherwise would be. Indonesian is one example, due to being created from and mutually intelligible with Malaysian. If we take a look at the Asia stats and add them together, we get:

Indonesia: 30 million
Malaysia: 17 million
Brunei: 0.2 million

We won't include Singapore for the sake of simplicity because it's only one of four official languages there. But even without Singapore that gives us 47.2 million, which would place it right around here on the chart.

Future potential is also bright for Indonesian, since Indonesia is still at only 12.5% penetration, giving 30 million out of a total of 240 million. Even just achieving what the Philippines has (one person in four online) would add another 30 million to the total.

Taking a look at the chart I made previously on future potential for the top ten languages on the internet, Indonesian resembles Arabic most in terms of raw # of speakers online vs. future potential speakers online, but it also resembles Portuguese most in that it's largely the actions of a single country that decide its online influence.

Also, the most recent numbers show Indonesian/Malaysian to be the fourth-most used language on Twitter.

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