Singapore occupies a key position along the international shipping routes through Southeast Asia and has thus become an important port and financial center over time. For the most part, the history of the island of Singapore is that of its neighbors, Indonesia and Malaysia. Only in modern times, beginning during the late colonial period, was the island looked at as something separate from its neighbors. During this time other groups immigrated to Singapore from China and South Asia. Much of the current population, numbering over four million, identifies with one of three groups, Indian, Chinese, or Malay. After the introduction of Islam by Muslim traders many hundreds of years ago the area around Singapore was controlled by various Muslim rulers until the island fell under British control in the 1800's. Due to its key position along the international trade routes and British policies supporting free trade, the island quickly became an important trade center. The island remained under British control until after World War Two when it became independent following a brief union with Malaysia.
Before the arrival of Europeans some five hundred years ago, the people in and around Singapore developed writing systems based on Arabic and South Asian alphabets used by traders frequenting the area. These writing systems were widely used until recent times when the use of Latin based alphabets became the norm to write many of the native languages, a practice that is still observed today. During the years of foreign control, the British controlled or heavily influenced any publishing in Singapore. When Singapore finally became an independent country after World War II the people were able to take over and expand their printing capacity. The number of publications produced in Singapore has grown steadily since that time. Most of what is published in the country comes out in English, with lesser amounts in other languages, such as Chinese or Malay. Along with information in printed formats, electronic information is also widely available. Singapore has a well established web presence and is a leader in information technology in the region.