Websites pass 100 million mark

The new figures mean that the internet has doubled in size since May 2004, when the survey hit 50 million, with most of the growth driven by blogs and small business websites.

The company said that it surveyed more than 101 million websites in October, up from 97.9 million the previous month.

Altogether more than 27 million new sites have been added this year alone, Netcraft spokesman Rich Miller said.

Netcraft said that the US remains the internet champion with 55 million websites, followed by Germany with 15 million, the UK with six million, Canada with three million and France with 2.5 million.

Too much English

Meanwhile, experts at a UN forum on internet governance have warned that the predominant use of English on the web needs to be checked before it crowds out other languages.

They fear forms of cultural knowledge accumulated over centuries of human progress could be be lost for ever.

“Some 90 per cent of 6,000 languages (at use today) are not represented on the internet,” said Yoshinori Imai of NHK, Japan’s Broadcasting Corporation.

“These people could be left out in the desert of no information and no knowledge,” he said.

In countries such as Colombia and Senegal, oral tradition and cultural heritage that could be used for research and education purposes may never reach the broader world, sociologists and linguists told the four-day forum, held Greece.

“A large part of the population are voiceless because they cannot share the information,” said Adama Samassekou, president of the African Academy of Languages in Mali.

“Even in the research field there’s a linguistic bias, English is far and away the dominant language,” added Divina Frau-Meigs, a professor of media sociology at the University of Sorbonne in Paris.

HTML difficulties

When it comes to creating sites with non English content, users in many countries face difficulty in that HTML, the computer code through which web pages are created, largely uses English words and abbreviations, said Bernard Benhamou, senior lecturer at the Political Sciences Institute in Paris.

“For (Westerners) this does not mean much, but for a user who doesn’t speak English it’s a hell of a task,” said.

In one case in Cambodia, the local internet community developed its own software in Khmer after being turned down by a software developer, said Markus Kummer, chairman of the United Nations working group on internet governance.

For the time being, initiatives to diversify language use on the internet are undertaken by various countries at local level.

But the United Nations and other organisations such as ICANN, the non-profit organisation that manages the internet’s technical root, are mindful that fragmentation could occur if this issue is not adequately addressed.

If that were ever to happen, experts say that typing an internet address would produce different links depending on the user’s geographical location, while email would get hopelessly lost en route.

“The risk of fragmentation today is low, but if were to occur it would be really bad,” said Patrick Faelstroem, a senior consulting engineer at Cisco Systems and a member of the Swedish government’s IT policy and strategy group.