Internet Geographer


The most visible country in Europe (on Wikipedia) is...

Building on my previous post on the visibility of Wikipedia articles, I wanted to quickly focus on some of our results in Europe. What we are measuring here are the aggregate number of views to all articles in each country. In other words, we’re mapping how many people read or view information about any country. 

What we see is that the UK is Europe’s most visible country. This is quite interesting because it isn’t the country in Europe that uses Wikipedia the most (Germany does). While there is a general correlation between views from a country and views to a country (we’ll be publishing a paper about this soon), it is the countries that deviate from expected values that perhaps tell the most interesting stories. Spain, for instance, is similarly a high visibility country (it is the world’s eighth most viewed/consumed country), but isn’t one of the top-10 users of Wikipedia.

The correlation between views from a place and views to a place generally makes a lot of sense. It implies that most Wikipedia users (i.e. most Internet users) simply want to access locally relevant information. However, the UK, Spain, and a number of other countries seem to be able to attract a significant amount of extra visibility.

The question then is why? Spain, as major tourist attraction with a relatively low Internet penetration rate (by European standards), makes sense as a place that would attract a higher than expected degree of visibility.

But why the UK? There are also more articles about Germany (and France, Italy, and Poland) than there are about the UK: so we can’t say that there is that much more to read about or look at in the UK.

Perhaps the answer has something to do with search engine rankings of Wikipedia articles. We know that Google gives Wikipedia articles a lot of prominence in results (e.g. see here and here and here and here), and that this drives a lot of traffic to the site. Does it do this more for English-language articles than, say, German-language ones? Does the fact that English-language articles about the UK are more likely to be embedded in a larger linguistic information ecosystem than their German counterparts also contribute to this spatial drift of attention?

I’d welcome thoughts on any of these points.