Consider a billion customers online

ETForecasts' claimed last week there will be 1.17 billion Internet users by 2005. It may be hard to imagine that almost one in every six people on the planet will have access to the Internet in four years' time, yet according to a forecast released by ETForecasts that will happen when some 1.17 people are online. A substantial factor behind the growth to that level of usage worldwide will be the rising use of wireless devices, particularly in the developing world.

The thing to note about all this, particularly for anyone who sells or markets on the Web, is that most of those one billion users will not be English speakers, or at least will not have English as their mother tongue. There are only seven countries in the world where English is the primary language spoken: the US, Canada, Ireland, the UK, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. A first rule for anybody wanting to sell or market to people outside those countries, is that it will not suffice to have your Web site and other online marketing materials in English only.

Already, according to Global Reach, 52.4 per cent of the world's Internet users are non-English speakers. There are 113 million European Internet users who speak 20 major languages between them, and there are 105 million Internet users and seven major languages in Asia, not to mention the 16.4 million South American users who speak Spanish or Portuguese. Even 30 per cent of visitors to US-based Web sites are currently not English speaking.

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