(For a year-by-year country-by-country comparison please see the above PDF attachment: Tables)
Americans have dominated the World Wide Web since its inception but their share of Internet users fell from 40 per cent to 36 per cent over the last year, and will continue to drop as the Internet grows far faster in other parts of the world. Perhaps more troubling in the U.S., growth in the online population there is leveling off compared to solid year-over-year gains in other industrialized countries.
Overall, Western Europe (22 per cent) plus the remainder of the English-speaking world (the other 12 per cent represented by Australia, Canada, urban South Africa and the United Kingdom) now form a bloc that rivals the Americans' share of current Internet users, the study concludes. Sweden, followed by Canada, have surpassed the U.S. with the highest proportion of Internet users in the world.
The Face of the Web II: 2000-2001 involved more than 28,000 interviews with online users in 30 countries and general consumers in 35 countries. A similar study was conducted in 1999 across the same countries, providing an unprecedented view of recent Internet growth and usage trends.
"Though the U.S. still by far has the largest single user base, non-Americans now outnumber Americans on the Internet by a clear margin," Ipsos-Reid notes.
Hyper growth a thing of the past
Awareness of the Internet is almost universal in North America, Australia, Europe and Japan. Still, at least one of out every three or four persons in urban areas of China, India, Russia and the rest of the developing world have yet to hear of the Internet.
The potential for new markets remains huge, but hyper growth will be a thing of the past. Without widespread home Internet access, people in developing countries outside of urban centers have more obstacles to going online - offices or Internet cafes represent the main alternatives.
And, ultimately, some people will choose to stay away. Even in some of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, about half of the unconnected said they have no need for or interest in the Internet.
"The Internet is now in its post-revolutionary phase," observes Gus Schattenberg, one of the authors of the Ipsos-Reid study. "The World Wide Web is showing signs of breaking away from the dominance of English, American-derived content.
"While the Web still affords a window on the larger world, users are increasingly able to find what they need in their own language on local sites. In each country, local content will play a role in converting the less frequent users into heavy users."
Among the follow-up phase survey findings:
- Size: The global scope of the Internet has expanded, but more modestly than expected. Ipsos-Reid estimates that the Internet user population grew by about 13 per cent year-over year. It pegs the global Internet population at about 350 million adults at the end of last year (less than one-tenth of the world's total population).
- Gender: More women (44 per cent compared to 41 per cent in 1999) and people age 54 and older (13 per cent compared to 11 per cent) are going online.
- U.S. grip slipping: Western Europe continues to narrow the gap with the U.S. as more Europeans come online in the Mediterranean regions. In 1999, Western Europeans made up 18 per cent of surveyed Internet users. At the end of 2000 they represent 22 per cent overall.
- Who's No.1? Sweden (65 per cent usage rate) and Canada (60 per cent) have surpassed the U.S. (59 per cent) as the countries with the highest proportion of Internet users.
- Who's Next? South Korea (45 per cent usage rate) and Singapore (46 per cent) have moved ahead and now rival major European markets (Germany 37 per cent; Belgium 36 per cent; United Kingdom 35 per cent).
- Who's Hot? Trial and new usage growth has leveled off in the U.S. market, but the Netherlands, South Korea, Singapore and Sweden all registered double-digit percentage point gains. And, significantly, the French and Italians are showing an interest in the Internet, slowly but surely dabbling in less traditional forms of social and commercial interaction.
- M for Mobility: Meanwhile, Japan is distancing itself from the rest of the online world as users there clearly favor i-mode mobile Internet services. By comparison, wireless Internet use among North Americans and Europeans remains low.
- How: The desktop PC is used by nine-in-ten Internet users to get online. Just 7 per cent primarily use a laptop and only 1 per cent primarily use a wireless device.
- Many homes have PCs without Internet access, particularly in Europe. In France, 47 per cent have a home PC, but just 23 per cent have home Internet access.
- No English spoken here: The Internet is turning out to be an important means for non-Anglo cultural statement. In every global region where English is not the main language spoken, nine-in-ten Internet users prefer to get local information in their own language.
- E-commerce: The casualties have been many, but online shopping has made significant gains in the U.S. and other major, developed markets. Nearly two-thirds of American Internet users have bought something online, as have four-in-ten users in other leading markets.
E-mail: The killer app?
It's the Number One interactive online activity for Internet users and a key reason for people to keep using the Web, Schattenberg says. No fewer than 90 per cent of Internet users have tried sending email and almost all plan to continue doing so. Email's compatibility with the wireless Internet may provide the basis for a new branch of Web culture.
"Many people will remember last year as the year of the dot-com crash and burn," notes Schattenberg. "But other things were happening, too. For a significant proportion of people in North America, Europe and Asia, email, online shopping and banking, chat, even music sampling firmly became a part of their lives."
Exchanging online photos is gaining popularity, especially in the U.S. where 55 per cent of users have done so. Unlike chat, this activity is big among older Internet users. Only in Japan has wireless Internet services access made substantial inroads, with email and text messaging dominating. One-in-five Japanese adults has wireless Internet access (most often via cellular phone), compared to less than half of that in Asia, the Americas and Europe.
- Hot spots for fixed digital cameras are Japan, the U.K., Spain and the U.S. CD burners are most popular among home Internet users in Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, urban Argentina and France.
- Entertainment and media sites continue to be the most popular sites on the Internet, with more than four-in-ten users seeking entertainment when they go online.
About Ipsos-Reid Ipsos-Reid has been tracking public opinion around the world for more than 20 years and has become a leading provider of global public opinion and market research to private, public and not for profit organizations in over 50 countries. With more than 1,300 staff in 11 cities, Ipsos-Reid offers clients a full line of custom, syndicated, omnibus and online research products and services.
It is best known for its line of Express opinion polls, the World Monitor public affairs journal, and The Face of the Web, the most comprehensive study of global Internet usage and trends. It is a member of Paris-based Ipsos Group, ranked among the Top 10 research groups in the world.
For more information, please contact: Gus Schattenberg (604) 893-1606