The Wikipedia page, Languages user on the Internet provides two different ways of ranking the most popular languages on the Internet.

  1. By content:

    Estimated percentages of the top 10 million websites using various content languages as of 4 March 2017

    Under this list, Arabic appears 16th, at 0.8%.

  2. By user:

    Estimates of the number of Internet users by language as of June 30, 2016:

    Under this list, Arabic appears 4th, at 4.7%.

The source for the latter statistic is Internet World Stats.

It estimates there are 173,538,690 Arabic Internet users - 42.5% of the Arabic population.

I find this source doubtful: it implies that almost half of Arabic speakers (including children) have Internet access and that they use the Arabic "language" (let's assume they all use Modern Standard Arabic).

How do they collect such stats? Is this accurate that there are that many Arabic speakers using the Internet and yet producing a disproportionately low percentage of the content?

  • I'm not sure I trust the statistics, considering they list arabic which is a language, and germany, which is not, on the same graph. – tuskiomi Jul 25 '17 at 17:15
  • It doesn't seem surprising that speakers of Arabic consume and produce English content. I'm a Hebrew speaker, and most of the content I read and write on the net (e.g. right here) is in English. It's the same for all Arabs I know (not a representative sample, I admit). – ugoren Jul 29 '17 at 21:58
up vote 8 down vote accepted

With regards to this question,

How come arabs be so verbose in the field of chatting and be so unproductive in terms of internet content?

a possible answer comes from this sentence in the IWS site:

Indeed, many people are bilingual or multilingual, but here we assign only one language per person in order to have all the language totals add up to the total world population (zero-sum approach).

This suggests to me they are classifying people based on what their primary language is, not by the language of the sites they are using.

The central argument of this answer is theoretical in nature. We do not allow answers based uniquely on common sense or pure logic. Answers which are wholly based on a theoretical model are generally downvoted and may be deleted. See FAQ: What are theoretical answers?

  • 2
    or worse, by the language of their operating system or browser, which is in no way related to the language they actually use. I use 90% English online, but my browser will report itself as Dutch despite me having set up the OS to use an English user interface... – jwenting Jul 25 '17 at 8:43
  • Interesting, you mean their stats are only based on demographics, those having an internet connection are assumed to equally generate the same number of words in their mother tongue even if they only use internet to play counterstrike? – Akli Jul 25 '17 at 20:28
  • Yes, I interpret their stats as purely demographical. I don't see any claims about number of words generated. – eyeballfrog Jul 25 '17 at 20:32
  • Thanks for finding the ref to their methodology. That explains everything. – Akli Jul 25 '17 at 20:35

Most likely true

There is little doubt that first 3 languages are English, Chinese and Spanish.

The contestants for number 4 spot would be:

  • Portugese
  • Russian
  • Hindi
  • Arabic

If you look at number of internet users in each country as estimated by United Nation's International Telecommunication Union, you'll find that:

  • Arabic countries total about 153 mln
  • Brazil + Portugal about 130 mln
  • Russia, Belarus, 60% of Ukraine about 125mln
  • Hindi is a tough one, India accounts for 341mln internet users, but only 41% are Hindi speakers, which would result in about 140mln

Discrepancies between IWS stats and ITU:

IWS ranks Malay language way higher, yet according to ITU internet penetration on Malaysia and Indonesia is very low. Even including part of Singapore, it'd be about 80mln, nowhere near 154mln from IWS stats.

It's hard to say who IWS counts as “English language internet users”.

Both discrepancies aren't really relevant to the answer though.

  • Using the number of persons connected to internet as an indicator of language use is not valid, from my personal experience, arabs use of internet is limited to facebook : liking & sharing posts and their lexic is limited to 'mashallah', 'allah ibarek' and plenty of smileys. That's why I'm doubtful of theses statistics. – Akli Jul 25 '17 at 20:18

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