Covering The World's E RevolutionRobert J. Dowling
Overseas visitors who drop into our offices in New York sometimes say the Internet won't be truly global until it stops being Anglo-Saxon. To English speakers, that sounds strange, because there's no lack of foreign-language Web sites around the world. Japan, for instance, has hundreds of thousands, and thousands of new ones sprout up daily across Europe and Latin America. But it's also true that English is the language for doing international business on the Net. The vast use of the national language sites has been mainly cultural: chats, gossip, politics, and, yes, pornography.
That's why the entry of China as a major Net player is so significant. China's Net is first and foremost about business. And China's fourfold annual rate of Net growth since 1997 is daunting. It will take only a few more years for mainland Net users to surpass the 40 million and rising users in the U.S., making China, despite its heavy-handed censorship, the largest Web player in the world. That means thousands of mainland manufacturers using trading companies and brokers in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, and elsewhere to sell to the outside world will do it directly. One E-biz portal, Alibaba.com in Hangzhou, signed up 28,000 companies in the past four months. It also means many sites will be both Chinese and English, and that translation software will likely take a quantum leap to help users from around the world ease into the market.
Bruce Einhorn, our Hong Kong tech specialist, has been following the Net's rise in Asia for two years. His "Asia Logs On" Cover Story (Feb. 1, 1999) showed how the Net became a major business force almost overnight. Now, in this week's cover, "China's Web Masters," he shows how the biggest emerging player of all will affect the world. Bruce's stories on Asia's Net fever--closely match the magazine's overall thrust. In the past six months, our Net story ratio--including our new E.biz quarterly--has doubled. Almost 10% of all stories in the magazine now concern the Net.
This is hardly surprising. Net use is integral to nearly all businesses we cover around the world, and it's sweeping into the consumer market, as our recent online trading and E-shopping stories in Europe show. Today, about 54% of the world's Web sites are in English, and English is likely to remain the preferred international language. But national and regional sites--in Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Swedish, Italian, French, German, Russian, you name it--are close behind in developing the international business relevance of the Net. We're committed to explaining this world to you.
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BUSINESS WEEK Editor-in-Chief Stephen B. Shepard recently received one of the highest honors in U.S. journalism. Steve was given the 1999 Lifetime Achievement Award for distinguished business and financial journalism at the Gerald Loeb Awards in Los Angeles. We're proud of Steve's dedication and his dedication to keeping BUSINESS WEEK a global leader.
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