The Web is finally becoming worldwide

China and India show potential as huge markets

Science & Technology

July 11, 2004|By John Moran | John Moran,HARTFORD COURANT

For most of us, the World Wide Web is worldwide in name only.

The vast majority of Web sites we visit are in the United States. Occasionally, we might happen onto a site in Canada or England, or perhaps an English-language newspaper in some other country.

So it might come as a surprise to learn that non-English-speaking parts of the Internet are soaring in popularity. The dot-com boom may be only a memory here, but it's just getting started internationally.

Yet as recent business deals show, this phenomenon is well known to big Web businesses.

Consider, for example, the recent move by Yahoo to create a search engine for China, called "Yisou" (www.yisou.com), said to mean "No. 1 search." That announcement came barely a week after Google said it had bought a minority stake in China's biggest independent search engine, Baidu.com. News accounts cited Google as saying: "Expansion into international markets is important to our long-term business success."

It's easy to see why. Already, Baidu.com is the fourth-largest site in the world in terms of Web traffic - just behind Yahoo, Microsoft Network and sina.com.cn, yet another Chinese-language site.

Of course, with the world's largest population, China is a natural place to look for Internet growth. And the country's rapidly developing economy only accelerates the trend.

Not to be left out, U.S. Internet giant eBay said recently that it was spending $50 million to buy Baazee.com, the largest online auction marketplace in India. With a population of more than 1 billion, India is the world's second-largest country. By one estimate, it has only 17 million Internet users, but is seen as a potentially major market.

Although language barriers remain, the emergence of a truly global Internet marketplace opens up immense opportunities for U.S. Internet users. Vacation homes. Exotic collectibles. New recipes. Hot music. Even better trading possibilities and improved communication about politics and policy.

For good or ill - and probably both - the Internet is finally emerging as a worldwide force for communications. Those who stick solely with U.S. sites are going to miss an increasingly rich experience.

The Hartford Courant is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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