A website called Internet World Stats estimates that almost 2 billion people were using the internet (as of June 2010). That's 30% of the people on the planet. On the chart below you can see that the largest group of internet users are from Asia (45%), then Europe (21%) and then North America (11%). Today's technology tip is about what language they are using online and how that's changing the world.
Internet World Stats - Internet Usage Statistics
According to a recent Foreign Policy Magazine article (Wyne, Ali. "The Language of Empire." June 6, 2009.) Half the world's population is projected to be speaking English by 2015. Recently one of the most prestigious universities in Italy, the Politecnico di Milano announced they would be switching to English as their language for almost all instruction in 2014. Not too surprising if you knew that in Europe 2/3rds of the population claim to have at least a working knowledge of English (Doughty, Steve. "English if the linua franca of Europeans"). In India there are even more English speakers than in Western Europe and in China most students start learning English in the 3rd grade.
Currently English is a first language for approximately 400 million people and a fluent second language for between 300 and 500 million more. Add to that another 750 million who have studied English as a foreign language and that's over 1 billion members of the "English Speaking World."
Why the huge increase in English Language users? The internet and computers have a lot to do with it. As you can see on the chart below, it is estimated that about 55% of websites on the internet are in English. Russian is the next largest language at only 6%. That means Over half the internet is in English with no other language commanding more than a tiny percentage of the rest.
w3techs.com - Usage of content languages for websites
Below are some links of interest that deal specifically with the worldwide English language trend:
Transcript of a radio interview about the growth of English
Not the Queen's English
Newsweek International article about globalization and English
English Could Snowball on the Net
Technical article about the potential for Internet English
Purely for entertainment, some funny English signs
Simple English Wikipedia
For those who are learning English, a simplified Wikipedia