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.

Saved by Translation (Sort of)

Up here in Canada there’s been a bit of a fight brewing between one of our major media/cable companies, Rogers, and one of the organizations who owns the poles that Rogers leases for their mobility services etc. Well the story took an interesting twist last week.

The entire argument has gone through court and has basically revolved around a missing commma in one sentence that essentially had massive ramifications in when the supplier could raise prices, and how much notice they gave Rogers before doing so.

Rogers interpreted the clause to mean the supplier would have to give them one year’s notice ahead of the termination date in the contract, and the supplier took it to mean they could cancel anytime with one year’s notice.

Initially things didn’t look good for Rogers, and in 2006 the CRTC (regulatory body) ruled in favour of the supplier. But then a few weeks ago they found their ace-in-the-hole – the FRENCH translation of the contract.

What the agreement said:

In English

The disputed section in the English version of the Support Structure Agreement (source CRTC): “Subject to the termination provisions of this Agreement, this Agreement shall be effective from the date it is made and shall continue in force for a period of five (5) years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five (5) year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party.”

In French

The same section of the model Support Structure Agreement in French (source CRTC, emphasis added): “Sous réserve des dispositions relatives à la résiliation du présent contrat, ce dernier prend effet à la date de signature. Il demeure en vigueur pour une période de cinq (5) ans, à partir de la date de la signature et il est subséquemment renouvelé pour des périodes successives de cinq (5) années, à moins d’un préavis écrit de résiliation à l’autre partie un an avant l’expiration du contrat.”

Source: Globe and Mail

Based on the language in the French contract the Regulator reversed their decision and sided with Rogers interpretation – though in the end it turns out that it doesn’t matter… in 2003 the Supreme Court took away the regulators ability to enforce power lines & poles.

Canada on the move…

Catching up on some blog reading over the weekend I came across a humerous post on Valleywag – apparantly in Yahoo’s eyes Canada is now part of Europe:

Yahoo has decided to lump the hosers in with the Eurotrash, adding Canada to the Yahoo Europe team now headed by exec Toby Coppel. Why? Ostensibly because “Canada’s multicultural diversity parallels Europe; and Canadian sites operate in English and French,” Coppel claims in an inadvertently hilarious memo sent to all European and Canadian employees.

I thought it was interesting that they cited the bilingual website as one of the reasons this move made sense – even though Yahoo.com has the Spanish language “Yahoo Telemundo“…

I hope the Canadian Yahoo’s are morning people ’cause I’m guessing their team conference calls probably all just shifted forward 6 or 7 seven hours.

Give your kid an extra hug today.

I had another post set to put up today but walking in this morning a single image, viewed through the foggy plastic of a Toronto Star newspaper box made me stop and reconsider a whole lot.

The photo isn’t new, in fact it was taken this past February. At the time it was a happy photo, full of joy and as a dad I can only imagine what Matthew Dawe, the soldier in the photo, was feeling at that time. I’m lucky enough to come home to those moments each and every day.

The headline “Capt. Dawe’s sad fate” accompanied the photo.

Matthew Dawe was due to return home from Afghanistan at the end of this month. No doubt he was already counting the days to when he’d get to relive a moment like this once again. Instead his life was cut short, along with 5 of his fellow soldiers, when an IED exploded beneath their armored personnel carrier. You can read the article here.

What tears me up in this case is his son. He’s old enough to understand who daddy is, and probably knew he was coming home soon – he wouldn’t be counting the days but kids just know. I can’t imagine how his mother will get through telling him that daddy isn’t going home, and most hauntingly, I don’t know how she’ll ever answer “why?”.

I don’t want to get into a debate of whether we should be there or not – I just hope that someone along the way can one day explain to this kid why his dad was there and why the world is a better place because of his contribution. These guys don’t get to pick the missions and I respect their dedication and commitment to serve our country.

So, when you get home tonight give your kid (or someone you love) an extra hug for those little guys who dads won’t be coming home. There’s at least one kid tonight who needs a little extra love form the world today.

Edit: In further reading I came across another article that mentioned Master Cpl. Colin Bason, who was also killed. He deployed when his daughter was just four days old. From the articles both sound like great men who would have made great fathers.