The Philippines is a richly diverse country, which has led at times to conflict in the past, especially between the mostly Christian northern islands and the Muslim south. Because the Philippines is made up of hundreds of islands, the people are diverse culturally and linguistically. In modern times, efforts to bring the country together under one culture and language have had some success, but they have not been able to erase generations of diversity and the real physical separation of the islands. Much of the current population, numbering around ninety million, speaks Tagalog as a first, second, or even third language. For example, in the central Philippine islands many people speak their native tongue, then Cebuano as a regional second language, Tagalog as the national language, and also English as a result of earlier American control and influence on the nation. English is spoken by many people in the larger cities, especially around Manila. Metro Manila is a sprawling and densely populated group of cities, while the rest of the country is made up of smaller cities and rural areas.
Before the arrival of the Spanish some five hundred years ago, the Filipino people developed writing systems. These were mostly wiped out by the Spanish as they conquered the islands and converted much of the population to Catholicism. During the Spanish period, lasting up to the end of the 1800's, the educated population used Spanish as their means of written communication. The Spanish alphabet was also used to write many of the native languages, a practice that is still observed today. Still, many groups in the Philippines lived without any writing until modern times. During the four hundred years of Spanish control, the Spaniards controlled or heavily influenced any publishing in the Philippines. Towards the end of the Spanish period a number of Filipino nationalists began to produce publications in Tagalog. This continued when the United States took control of the country, however much of the publishing during this period switched from Spanish to English. The stated goal during the period of United States control in the first half of the twentieth century was to move the Philippines towards independence. During this time, local people gained more control over the information industry. When the Philippines finally became an independent country after World War II the people were able to continue and expand their printing capacity. The number of publications produced in the Philippines has grown steadily since that time. Much of what is published in the country still comes out in English, with some in Tagalog and much less in other languages. Along with information in printed formats, electronic information is also available and the Filipinos have embraced this technology where they have access to it, mainly in the cities. Filipinos are establishing an increasingly large presence on the Web.