Map of Wikipedia usage worldwide

Last week I did a short talk at TED on Wikipedia’s evolving impact. I’ve posted an expanded version of the slides (PDF) and want to use a few blog posts to elaborate on some of the points covered.

First point for this blog post, I was looking for a way to visualize some the great analysis Erik Zachte did recently on the geographic source of traffic to Wikipedia. A trip through Commons pointed me to a slick online mapping tool and Erik was incredibly helpful at providing me with the data I needed. Here’s the map we came up with, which represents average monthly Wikipedia page views per internet user during July, August and September of 2009:

(click on map to zoom)

Green represents countries where the average internet user viewed at least 10 pages per month.  Red represents countries where the average internet user viewed less than one page per month.  Erik’s analysis is based on geolocation of entries from a preliminary sample of Wikipedia server logs and on the latest estimates of Internet users per country, which for some countries are outdated so will result in overstated usage estimates. That said, it’s interesting and gives insights at a more granular level than previously available due to the lack of scalable free and open source tools like Google Analytics. The underlying data is in this worksheet for anyone who wants to review/expand/improve.

The big question for me is, “What drives the red countries?” Three possibilities come to mind:

  1. Less developed Wikipedias in local languages
  2. Current or historical political issues (more on this in a later post)
  3. Slower access to our sites due to distance from Amsterdam/Tampa

What do you think is driving lower Wikipedia usage among internet users in some countries? What can/should our community do about it? Post a comment with your thoughts.

22 thoughts on “Map of Wikipedia usage worldwide

  1. Jen says:

    Strange… I wonder what’s driving the huge use of Wikipedia in Burma, Bangladesh, and Cambodia. Maybe there are so few internet users that the statistics are skewed? The Khmer and Burmese wikipedias are pretty awful, and the Bengali wikipedia isn’t that great either.


    • Jen, my guess is that the estimates of internet users are out of date and too low, which ends up causing the calculation of page views per user to be artificially high. Also, as Erik Zachte pointed out to me, the page view counts per country are based on a 1/1000 log extract so for the smallest countries random sampling fluctuations may be significant.


    • Jen says:

      Now that I think about it, it also could just indicate that internet usage in those countries is growing very rapidly, so that the number of hits is being divided by a number that’s much too small.


  2. kwyjibo says:

    South Korea has some of the best broadband connections, and highest broadband penetration in the world.

    Why is that country in Red? Wikipedia has serious growth potential, and lots of catching up to do there. Are there any embedded local alternatives eating up potential Wikipedia traffic?


    • Local Wikipedians will know better, but my guess is the big driver is the strength of Naver (네이버). comScore estimates that, in January 2010, 49% of South Korean internet users went to Naver Knowledge iN while less than 8% went to the Korean-language Wikipedia (just under 7% go to English Wikipedia).


  3. An excellent and much needed map! 🙂

    Reasons for red areas apparently vary. Be it good alternative local websites, government ban of Wikipedia, lack of content in native language, or overrepresentation of Internet users’ numbers.


  4. I wonder if the amount of coverage in Wikipedia might also be a factor. Consider Ethiopia, which has lower Internet penetration than its neighboring African countries. Not to toot my own horn, but I’ve been told my work on Ethiopia-related articles has made that country far more comprehensive than its neighbors — so in some cases (at least) Wikipedia gets more hits because there is more relevant information there. And in the case of some countries, say Burma which provides more traffic than its neighbors, Wikipedia may be a vital source of news & information which is not otherwise available.



  5. "Orange Mike" Lowrey says:

    Not everybody on this planet speaks English (or wants to); Wikipedia in its current state is most useful for English-speakers, especially native English speakers.


  6. User:Wizardist says:

    I’ll tell you why that red maple leave* in the center of Europe is red 🙂

    1. Zomg! We have two Wikipedias and their difference is in orthography. Though unofficial orthography Wikipedia (be-x-old) takes the leadership 🙂
    2. We have too huge influence from Russia, I mean Russian culture. Most of people speak Russian in daily life (I’d not say that Russian is Russian indeed) and only some volunteers try to move the Wikipedia from the dead point.
    3. We have not the cheapest Internet access in the world. But I hope we will soon 🙂

    * Belarus


    • Not yet. As I understand it, the TED team only posts videos of some of the talks, and then trickles out the videos over time so if it gets released at all it may be a while.


  7. Приветики! Читаю не первый день странички. Да вот скорость соединения хромает. Как можно подписаться на вашу RSS-ленту? Хотел бы читать вас и дальше.


  8. Премного благодарен, что просветили, и, главное, как раз вовремя. Подумать только, шесть лет уже в инете, но про это первый раз слышу.


  9. I agree with Nikola, however I think there’s too many factors in the equation. Plus the countries that are in the red are somewhat behind the times (technically speaking) in my opinion so that could be part of the reason also.


  10. Well, some of the red is due to the fact that some nations like to monitor and ration information. In China, for example, sites like wikipedia are blocked all over the place. But when they relent on those things, I think you’ll see a massive wiki-jump! People are going to want an unvarnished look at what the heck has been happening for the past 50 years!


    • vasilis says:

      That’s not always true. I’m from Greece and I can’t find extensive information in my language. That’s why I look in English, where the texts are more extensive and there is no danger not to find some important information. If you observe you will see that most countries in light blue colour have English as their official language.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s