Technology For Society

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Firefox Indic language usage is not growing rapidly


Firefox is providing insight into download and use of its language versions from Dec-2009. It uses a feature called blocklist, where in the Firefox browser contacts Mozilla servers for updates on the malware websitesm once a day. Through this transaction, Mozilla is able to track the usage of the locale of the browser.

I got access to few Indic language report s (Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, ,Tamil, Telugu) for the past 3 months and tried to analyze the same. In the chart below, the downloads for the week are shown in the chart. Hindi tops the list, among the languages I have analyzed, an expected statistic in view of the larger population.

However the actual usage for the week ending 2010-03-14 is shown below. There is not much change in the last few months in these numbers. Hindi again tops the list, but its proportion of users from outside India is very much low compared to all other languages . Malayalam has large percentage of users outside India relative to to other languages. Hindi users are about 0.1% of the total users from India for Firefox 3.6 Version. Other language percentages are much below. Though the download numbers every week are roughly the same, the usage has not improved much in the last three months. This means that users are curious to find out the language version looks like, but many are not really using it.

It would be interesting to speculate about the reasons. Many users could be using computers provided by their employer. They may not be comfortable with the localized version. Or they might have experienced font display issues, if their system is not configured for rendering the language. Any other guesses and suggestions on how we can convert the downloaders into actual users?
More detailed analysis for Telugu is available in Telugu blogpost entry.

6 comments:

Seth March 21, 2010 at 10:56:00 PM PDT  

I have heard that India users of the web prefer using their software in English. Of the roughly 30 to 70 million people who are online in India, most (if not all) speak English. So, maybe it will take some time for more users to use the localized versions. As more and more Indians come online, English may not be the preferred language to be used. I wonder how these numbers will look in 1 year, 2 years, or 5 years. What do you think?

Arjun March 24, 2010 at 4:05:00 AM PDT  

Seth: Agree with your reasoning.

As per a recent news paper report of linguistic analysis of speakers based on 2001 Census data for India, India stands at number 2 after US, in the number of English speakers at 125 Million. 255 Million are bilingual and 87.5 million speak three or more languages. 136.7 million rural Indians also speak atleast two languages. Hindi speakers number 551.4 million followed by English at 125.3m, Bengali at 91.1m, Telugu 85m and Marathi 84.2m.

English as medium of education from Primary school level is gaining ground, as Government schools started implementing it to cater to the expectations of parents. My forecast for the next 10 years is that local languages use will still improve on smart mobile phones in rural areas, as the expertise of English will be not upto the mark. Hence we might as well focus on Fennec , mobile version of Firefox , which might gain larger share, once the smart mobile penetration improves and becomes more affordable.

Seth March 25, 2010 at 9:30:00 AM PDT  

That's helpful census data. I had never seen that. Can you send me other Indian demographic reports as they relate to languages and software/technology? It's probably an impossible request, but still would be very interesting to see.

Focusing on Fennec makes sense to me. But, India has to move past 2/2.5G technology so that 3G smart phones can start to take hold. There is also a big cost barrier for these 3G phones. But, mobile is still important, undoubtedly.

Arjun March 28, 2010 at 3:26:00 AM PDT  

Here are some links.
TOI report on Indian language speakers

Cellphone Operators Association of India

IndiaTechonline One of the tech news websites tracking IT

3G services are being rolled out across the nation . Only the cost of smart phones should fall to increase the user base.

sham November 15, 2010 at 3:54:00 AM PST  

Do you have/where do I get more detailed analysis for Kannada?

Arjun November 23, 2010 at 9:00:00 PM PST  

Sham,
Please send me a mail via wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:EmailUser/Arjunaraoc
and I will send you the Kannda details.

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