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Meeker files: emerging markets own web growth, mobile on top

People around the globe are still coming online on the for the first time in their millions. That much of that growth comes from emerging markets is to be expected. More surprising is that some of the highest rates of internet adoption come from authoritarian states.

Most famously, China has the world’s largest online population despite its citizens’ internet access being severely curtailed by a series of controls known colloquially as the Great Firewall of China. Iran meanwhile has threatened to cut off access to external sites, yet its online population has grown by 205% in the past year.

That’s according That’s according to the 2012 Internet Trends Update report from renowned web analyst Mary Meeker, sometimes referred to as the “Queen of the Net”.

Meeker, a partner at VC company Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers (KPCB), authored the report — an update of one written earlier this year — with KPCB digital team member Liang Wu.

Interestingly the report shows that the internet has only reached 40% of China’s population so far, meaning that if it maintains its 10% year on year growth, it could have an online population in the billions within the next few years.

Internet Trends 2012 update

China’s internet growth is however now much closer to the global average of eight percent.

We’re still going mobile

Of the 2.4-billion or so people who now have access to the internet, nearly half can experience it on a smartphone. According to Meeker, there are now 1.1-billion smartphone subscribers worldwide.

Internet Trends 2012 update 1

The countries with the highest rate of smartphone penetration are Japan and South Korea, with 65% and 59% respectively. Given the tech culture in both countries (Korea is rated as the most connected country on Earth), that’s hardly surprising.

Smartphones however only represents 17% of mobile subscribers around the world. An upswell in cheap Chinese-made smartphones could see that number explode in the next few years and internet usage along with it.

Internet Trends 2012 update 3

Despite its importance as a means of accessing the internet in emerging markets (mobile internet has overtaken desktop internet in both China and India), it still only represents 13% of global internet traffic. That means it has some serious room for growth when it comes to getting people online.

Global mobile traffic

Android’s growth completely dominates the iPhone

Chances are the vast majority of those people entering the smartphone market will be buying an Android phone. According to Meeker, Android phones have seen six times the adoption of the iPhone. Over 650-million have been sold in the 16 quarters since launch, compared to just over 100-million iPhones.

Internet Trends 2012 update 2

That’s likely down to the fact that a large number of manufacturers use Android as the OS for their smartphones. Its open source nature means that they’ve also been able to stick on much cheaper devices.

Hope for mobile ads

Smartphone adoption also means that apps and mobile ads are becoming increasingly viable sources of revenue.

In 2008, they brought in US$700-million. This year they’re set to bring in a combined US$19-billion. That’s some serious growth in a relatively short amount of time, especially within the context of a global recession.

Re-imagine everything

The rise of mobile smartphones and tablets also means that Windows, which once held a near monopoly, is actually a minority player in the OS game. Android and iOS combined account for 45% of the OS market, while Windows now accounts for 35%.

OS marketshare

While the Redmond-based giant could regain some ground with its mobile plays, it’s unlikely that it’ll ever regain the hegemony it once had.

Data is big and only getting bigger

The increasing ubiquity of mobile devices (never mind sensors embedded in everyday objects like cars, guitars, and bicycles) also means that we’re generating more data than ever before. In the five years leading up to 2011, the amount of data we generated grew nearly nine times.

Big Data

All sorts of people from Facebook, to traffic app Waze and online review service Yelp are using selective pieces of that data to give people a more comprehensive view of the world they live in.

The magnitude of things to come

All that is just a glimpse of how tech is changing the way interact with the world. According to Meeker, that change is only going to become more rapid and affect more areas of our lives.

Things to come

Author | Stuart Thomas

Stuart Thomas
Stuart is the editor-in-chief of Engage Me Online. After pursuing an MA in South African literature, he spent five years reporting on the global technology scene. Intrigued by the intersection of technology and work, he joined Engage Me as the editor-in-chief. He is a passionate runner, and recently ran... More
  • Andy Walker

    Hi jmmueller,
    Thanks for the comment and the spot! The article has been corrected accordingly.

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