By Jaylan Boyle, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – Further evidence of the importance of Brazil’s rapidly expanding online community arrived last week with the announcement that Twitter, the world’s most popular ‘microblogging’ platform, is to unveil a version of their site in Portuguese.

The popularity of Twitter in Brazil has led to the company launching a Portuguese language version of the site, photo by Jaylan Boyle.

As with many other economic spheres of interest, Brazil is seen by Twitter as a strategic market of the future, with many more than the current estimate of 72 million users expected to get online as the country continues to prosper.
Though English and Japanese are the most used languages on Twitter by some distance, Brazilians are among the most active Twitterers around: There are 5.9 million users in this country, compared with around 4.5 million in the rest of Latin America combined.

Given that Brazilians are interacting with the site in a language other than their native one, in a country where English is not commonly spoken, it is easy to see why many of the major social networking sites are keenly interested in the country.

Twitter became aware of the need for the service to be available in more languages after the 500 percent growth in newly opened accounts among Chileans following the recent earthquake, said Jenna Dawn, a spokesperson for the US based site. “If we did not have Twitter in Spanish, we would not have been aware [of the importance of language]” said Dawn in a recent Latin American press conference.

A free internet cafe in Novo Friburgo, Rio. Provision of free internet has helped boost the use of social networking sites like Twitter across Brazil, photo by Nate Cull.

Across the continent as a whole, around 95 percent of internet users have an account with at least one of the major networking sites, of which Brazilian memberships make up a considerable proportion. They also lead the world in terms of social networking usage per capita, and many have seen this as a reflection of the Brazilian reputation for social gregariousness.

This theory is further borne out by the fact that the region’s Facebook subscribers have the world’s greatest average number of friends in their network, 360, meaning that a more-than-averagely popular Brazilian has hundreds more than this. In usage terms, Brazil is followed by Turkey, with the United States coming in ninth.

Google’s flagship networking site Orkut, denounced by most in the industry as a failure throughout the western world, remains one of the most popular interaction sites in Brazil. Brazilians make up more than half of Orkut users worldwide, with India having around twenty percent. Recognizing this, Google moved the operations base from the US to Belo Horizonte in 2008.

Quite why Orkut has managed to maintain such a faithful following given that others like Facebook and MySpace have long since eclipsed the service in the west has the industry at a loss, but Twitter are set to learn from that experience and look forward to cornering a potentially huge market.

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