A new United Nations study suggests that Chinese may soon replace English as the most commonly spoken language on the Internet.
The U.N.'s Broadband Commission
says for now English remains the world's most widely spoken language on the web, with 27 percent (565 million people) of the global online population using it as their main language.
But the report says Chinese web users continue to grow rapidly, reaching 24 percent (510 million people) of the world's total as of May 2011. The study predicts that if current growth rates continue, Chinese users may outnumber English-speaking users by 2015.
With the world's largest population, China already has more Internet users than any other country. But the U.N. report says only 38 percent of China's total population uses the Internet. That compares to nearly 80 percent in the United States.
Rights groups regularly criticize China for failing to provide its rapidly growing online population full access to the Internet. China strictly controls what websites its citizens are allowed to visit - severely restricting access to some of the world's most popular sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.