Wikipedia page reads, breakdown by region

As we know in some regions of the world people have more easily access to Wikipedia than in others. The majority of reads come from the so called Global North (*). Now is this unbalance between North and South diminishing? Not so easy to get the needle moving, as a whole range of regional differences come into play: average internet speed and latency differ widely between regions, in some regions internet access is almost ubiquitous, at any time or place, at home and at work, via desktop/mobile/tablet, yet in large parts of the world many can only access internet via shared computers (schools, cyber cafes). The saying goes that the second billion internet users will use a mobile phone as main access point, a true game changer. I hope and expect Wikipedia Zero will vastly speed up this development.

WMF’s monthly report card shows trends per region on reach and unique visitors (data from comScore), but those metrics are only part of the story. For one comScore uses indirect measurement (as a consequence of strict WMF privacy policy). Also, a metric like unique visitors does not weigh in total activity per user (one page view per month or thousand both count as one UV).

Fortunately we can also count page views directly, and break these down by region, target wiki, mobile or main site. Wikistats has many reports on this, e.g. page views/edits per region, page views per platform and target wiki.

Here is another set of charts. This time emphasis is not on absolute trends, but on relative content consumption per region. Again focusing on: do we see a shift in global distribution of page reads?

Please remember mobile in the charts is about traffic to mobile site, not traffic from mobile devices! A considerable part of web access from phone and tablets is to the main site.


The chart above shows how Africa still has a long way to go to gain equal access to internet: with about 15% of the worlds population, 1.4 % of Wikipedia page views is low, but still one and a half as much as 3 years ago.





Central America


North America


South America

North vs South
Main site vs Mobile site

North vs South

Sub Saharan Africa

A page request is defined here as any request for html content (mime mode ‘text/html’).  So it includes non existing pages (e.g. 404’s), and maybe other cruft. Unlike in some other reports we do discern between human and bot page requests here. (**)

Data source for all these charts is one file, extracted from the same 1:1000 sampled server logs we already use for other reports. There is a rudimentary perl script (***) to extract cross sections from these data, and produce a csv file ready for import into a spreadsheet, so as to produce charts like above. Over time we may feed some of the results into our monthly report card.

Of course our upcoming data beast Kraken will take care of data collecting soon, with a better resolution than ever, more flexible breakdowns, and faster available. So consider this data stream not strategic, rather putting legacy to good use to fill in a void.  

Disclaimer: some of the anomalies that occurred over time in our data have been filtered out (those data points are blanked). And we had some serious data collecting mishaps over the years. For this reason data before 2010 are omitted altogether (****).

* = Not same as geographical north, in fact WMF uses its own breakdown on N vs S
** = We will overhaul definitions and move to standardized metrics, which by itself causes a new challenge: to somehow integrate old and new metrics in one timeline, until the new metrics have acquired enough history.
*** = Low on documentation, lots of room for improvement on filter and aggregation  options
****= We have chosen to include first half of 2010 despite major server under-reporting we faced at that time: because these charts are about relative rather than absolute traffic numbers, despite the possibility that server overload affected some times of the day and hence some regions somewhat more than others.


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2 Responses to Wikipedia page reads, breakdown by region

  1. Pingback: Wikimedia Research Newsletter, November 2012 — Wikimedia blog

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