Move over America…

… China is about to become the largest online population. Between the end of 2006 and the end of 2007 China added roughly 73 Million users to the Internet.

73 MILLION.

To put it in perspective – even if Canada doubled it’s population and put an internet connection in the house of every man, woman and child in the country. We’d still come up about 7 Million people short.

On the flip side though there’s two factors at work here. China’s population is roughly 1.3 Billion right now which means a total user base of 210 Million is only a 16% penetration rate. In Canada we have a ~65% penetration and the US has ~71%.

India will no doubt pick up steam in the coming and will definitely rank in the number 2, if not number 1 spot.

So what does this mean for the Internet in general?

The connected world’s borders are no longer geographical – they’re lingual.

The world may be flattening, but there’s still a a few big walls running across the landscape. The reality is the “hidden web” is going to keep growing. As I’ve posted about before, your ability to access information online revolves almost exclusively around the languages you can read/write.

As countries like China & India continue to pump new users online more and more content will be generated in their native languages, likely invisible to you unless you speak (and search in) that language.

Google’s getting better and better with opening access to these sites through their machine translation tools but the reality is there just isn’t enough CPU horsepower to run every Google search through machine translation for all the different language variations.

Language Weaver, through Kontrib, is also making an interesting attempt at opening up more content to a broader audience through a Digg like portal. It’s a great idea although I think they’re going to have a hard time getting the traction it needs. I’d personally love to see them work with Digg directly instead and create a licensing deal similar to what my friends at Idee have done with their image duplication detection technology.

It’s going to be interesting to watch this story play out. Who ever busts the language barrier the mos effectively first will dramatically change the search game. Google is clearly out in front, and the most likely victor, but you never know who’s running in stealth right now and could surprise us all.