A survey out this week reports that 429 million people around the world now have Internet access. The report, prepared by Neilsen/NetRatings, surveyed users in 27 countries in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Asia Pacific and Latin America.
"The largest proportion of Internet service obviously is in America. But things are changing quite quickly at the moment," says Richard Goosey, a Nielson analyst based in Oxford, England "I think the United States will continue to dominate the Internet. However, what we tend to see is that they will have a smaller and smaller share of the total global audience that is using the Internet. Forty percent of the global audience is sited in the U.S. and Canada. It was quite a significant milestone when that dropped below 50% of the global audience. But we are predicting that the drop will continue toward the 30% mark as the Asia Pacific grows."
The Nielsen survey finds that just over a quarter of European households have Internet access via personal computers, compared to one third of the households in Asia Pacific and nearly half of American homes.
"We're seeing very high growth levels in Europe and also in Asia Pacific," says Mr. Goosey. "We're expecting the growth levels in Asia Pacific to be slightly faster than Europe with Asia Pacific catching up with America very, very quickly, followed by Europe."
According to the Nielson expert, one facet of Internet use that is not expanding as rapidly as expected is electronic commerce.
Goosey: "I think this has to do with confidence. The most confident buyers are still in the U.S. where 74% of the people are surfing in terms of shopping on the Internet and 30% of the people are buying online every month. However, those levels are not being achieved elsewhere in Europe. I'd say that some of the countries, like the U.K. where we are seeing 11% of people buying online every month, the confidence is being boosted by major credit card companies bringing out protection schemes to ensure that fraud on the Internet is controlled."
Noble:"So, as people feel more secure online you anticipate that there will be greater use of it for shopping"
Goosey: "Definitely. I think that is going to be the trend, especially when you are confident that there is not going to be misuse of your card."
Nielson tracks Internet trends four times a year. These results are for the first quarter of 2001.
Windows XT, the new computer operating system that Microsoft plans to unveil in October, has a number of new features. Among them, say Microsoft officials, is real time communication in which the personal computer becomes a central hub for sharing video, audio, text, and documents with others instantly and just about anywhere in the world.
The concept, called Windows Messenger, will let a computer user know right away if someone is available. If so, users can see each other, talk, and work on documents together, and at the same time. For example, researchers in different locations will be able to work together on projects, sharing source material and co-editing papers while online. Other possibilities include easy to hold, spur of the moment online family reunions.
There is a law of physics which holds that every action has a reaction. It will be interesting to see if Windows XP and its Messenger feature will have an impact on companies which market more traditional forms of communication such as telephone service or America Online's instant messenger. We'll have to wait and see. The new Windows operating system is still being tested and final release is still about four months away.