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Google Imperialism: Mapping the World’s Most Popular Websites

Google Imperialism: Mapping the World’s Most Popular Websites

Sure, it’s not all that surprising that Google and Facebook are the most visited websites in almost every country. But what’s more interesting is where they’re not. Using public data from the web traffic service Alexa, the Oxford Internet Institute’s Information Geographies blog has mapped the most popular websites by country (the colonial-style map above is entitled, “Age of Internet Empires”). And while researchers found that Google and Facebook reigned supreme among Internet users across the globe, there were some notable exceptions.

The al-Watan Voice newspaper, for instance, is the most visited site in the Palestinian territories, while a Russian email service, Mail.ru, dominates in Kazakhstan. Japan and Taiwan are Yahoo!’s last bastions, and in Russia the search engine Yandex tops the list. There are also blind spots in the survey; Alexa lacks information on countries with small Internet populations, including much of Sub-Saharan Africa.

China is a particularly interesting case: The Chinese search engine Baidu is the most visited website in the country, but its success may be engineered in part by the government. As the speculation goes — and some evidence suggests — Chinese officials have colluded with local business interests to limit Google’s share of the market in favor of Baidu and other companies (cases have been reported of Chinese users visiting Google, only to be mysteriously redirected to Baidu, though Baidu denies that the government is giving it a leg up on the competition). Today, Baidu controls around 80 percent of the Chinese search market and, according to Alexa data that the Oxford researchers question, recently became the market leader in South Korea as well (Google left mainland China in 2010, but still runs a Hong Kong-based portal). The countries below are sized based on the size of their Internet populations (click to expand the map):



But don’t doubt Google’s supremacy just yet. Not only is Google the top site in 62 countries of the 120 countries tracked, but the researchers note that “among the 50 countries that have Facebook listed as the most visited visited website, 36 of them have Google as the second most visited, and the remaining 14 countries list YouTube (currently owned by Google).”

It makes you wonder: Just what are the implications of so few companies controlling worldwide access to so much information?