The Internet, since its inception, has been imagined as a technology that enables information to overcome barriers of language and geography. As a handful of social media platforms now dominate globally, removing most barriers of distribution; this has created unprecedented opportunities for content to gain worldwide traction, regardless of its country of origin. Yet historically with few exceptions, people generally consume content that is from or for their region. Has the Internet or social media really altered this trait? Analyzing the extent of similarities between a hundred countries' web use patterns simultaneously across their most popular websites, and country specific trends from YouTube and Twitter respectively, we find that countries which share borders or where people speak the same languages have the most similar web use patterns. Global social media usage on both YouTube and Twitter is even more heterogeneous and driven to a larger extent by language and geography than global website traffic. Neither does high prevalence of English language speakers in the two countries, nor does one of them being the United States contributes substantially to web use similarity. Global web use remains highly regional. The technical affordances of the Internet alone are thus insufficient to render a cosmopolitan world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0278594
JournalPloS one
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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