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FIRST THOUGHTS

The research firm Gartner Dataquest predicts that in 2003, Asia-Pacific will have more Internet users, at 183 million, than the U.S., at 162 million. What makes this statistic remarkable is that at 183 million, Asia is only just getting started. Companies have already begun investing heavily in Japanese-language web sites. When Yahoo! first looked overseas, Japan was one of the first countries chosen. Not only does Japan represent a major world market, but its residents have readily embraced the Internet. Whether by mobile phone or PC, the Japanese truly love the Internet, for entertainment as well as shopping. There are already more than 40 million Japanese Internet users.

China represents perhaps the greatest potential of any world market. With more than a billion people sharing a common written language, the long-term potential is enormous. Currently, Internet penetration is still quite low, at about 33 million, but if only 25% of China gets an Internet connection, it will become the largest market in the world. Many analysts say that this milestone is only a handful of years away. Despite the marvelous potential of both markets, however, web localization can be very challenging for native-English speakers. The languages are complex, and English-language software tools don’t make things any easier.


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