The Olympic Games might have set records for tweets, as well as sports. But when it comes to the cities most active on Twitter, London only ranks in third place.

As the microblogging site continues its rapid growth around the globe, a new study by Semiocast shows the most Twitter-addicted cities – and countries. There are some surprising results, with the Indonesian city of Jakarta in first place. Tokyo comes second, with the first American city, New York, only in fifth place.

This marks a major change from 2010, when North America dominated the social network. While the United States still has the highest number of accounts by far (140 million), other countries are catching up fast.

The research firm analyzed the location of an impressive 10.6 billion public tweets in June 2012. They looked at the countries that had seen the strongest growth in account numbers, as well as how “active” they were on the network.

Although growth in Japan is slowing, it has some of the most engaged users in the world, posting much more often than average. Japanese is the second most widely used language on Twitter. It’s one of the few countries where Twitter challenges Facebook in terms of user numbers.

The United States continues to gain more users, with six cities in the top 20. These include Chicago and Los Angeles in 8th and 9th place, as well as Miami, Atlanta and Houston. Surprisingly, San Francisco, where the company is based, does not make the list.

The network’s popularity is soaring in Brazil, where user numbers grew from 33.3 million to 41.2 million in just six months. Another area for growth is the Middle East. Since Twitter introduced support for right-to-left languages, Arabic use has soared, and it’s now the sixth most popular language. Saudi Arabia has seen a 93 per cent rise in user numbers since January, while its capital, Riyadh, is tenth on the list of Twitter-addicted cities.

Of course there are some shortcoming to this research. Even though Twitter allows users to post their GPS location, very few actually do. Semiocast relied on analyzing user profiles, time zones and languages to determine where they were based.

It also doesn’t look at the number of Twitter users compared ot population size.  Another analysis found that the UK had the highest penetration, with an impressive 39 per cent using the site. Latin American countries also have a high percentage of users, with Chile, Venezuela, Brazil, and Argentina all in top ten. This is supported by research by ComScore, which suggests Latin American populations are the most “socially engaged” in the world.

 It’s interesting to compare the top cities with data from 2010, (from the Twitter tool, twitter.grader.com) This named London the most active city. But the top ten was dominated by North American cities, with Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Boston completing the top five cities.   

Since then, Twitter has dramatically extended its reach, increasing its support to 33 languages. It’s now a far more diverse, multicultural and multilingual site that it was just three years ago.  The proportion of tweets in English has dropped from two-thirds in 2009 to just 39 per cent this year. As more of the world catches the Twitter bug, it looks as if this trend will continue.