There are now ~2.4 billion Internet users around the world, and this total continues to grow apace with 8% 'Year on Year' growth driven strongly by the emerging Markets.

As one might expect, China and India are very big players here, in terms of measured Internet users.  Not surprisingly, China are well out there at number 1 with India at number 2.  However, while China may already be number 1, it already has an estimated 42% Internet penetration (still plenty of potential for growth…) however, India has achieved 2nd place but with only 11% population penetration.  Other emerging countries like Indonesia, Iran, Columbia and Turkey all figure in the top 15 countries for Internet users.

As you might expect, mobile usage is also expanding very rapidly and is forecast to continue to do so, while the mobile advertising opportunity remains largely untapped with only $4B spent on mobile advertising as compared to the $37B spent on Internet advertising. So plenty of growing business potential here too.

While these stats show activity in the emerging markets, Bruce (namesake Springsteen) would be very happy when you look at where the big Internet businesses are currently actually 'made', with 80% of the top 10 Global online firms being 'Born in the USA…' - even though over 80% of Internet users actually exist outside of the USA itself. There may be considerable International opportunity here as emerging international markets require more than perhaps the 'American perspective'.

The world's content is also increasingly accessible and it's shared and 'tagged' far more with a 9 fold increase in the last 5 years. The online landscape, which has become more social and content rich, with expanded use of photos, video (0 to now 100 hrs. uploaded per minute in the last 6 years) and audio. Much of this is driven by social media related activities.

In terms of 'sharing' of this data, mobiles are of course having a big impact. Mobile traffic as a % of global Internet traffic is growing fast, currently at 15% of total Internet traffic and likely to accelerate. This 15% figure seems low as, for example, in China mobile Internet access is now, as of end of 2012, outstripping traditional PC access. Mobile usage (apart from calls of course) started with txt's, and then photo's (Facebook but now also Snapchat and Instagram growing fast), video is now well into the 'ramping up' stage and it's believed that sound and data are the next emerging 'share' trends.

The fact that mobiles are, by nature, 'mobile' means that there is also now an even far greater opportunity to share, and with real immediacy too, what is going on 'anytime anyplace anywhere', but I question if there is always value in this. Tablets, as another mobile device relatively new to the scene, now growing in use faster than mobiles, are also significantly driving these and similar trends too.

However, my namesake, Bruce (aka The Boss) may not be a fan of some effects of these socially driven recent trends. Long ago people danced at concerts now they Txt; Video; Share; Tweet etc.

This 'social media' encroachment into everything we do, is one of the real and very strong trends both facilitated by, and indeed now driving many of, the newest Internet trends themselves. But, where, in real human interaction terms, is this all going?

As an observation also related to this, my wife recently bought me some tickets to a great live comedy event, 'The Pub Landlord' and while I thoroughly enjoyed the whole atmosphere of it, I couldn't help but notice the girl in front of me, probably mid to late 20's, who spent well over 70% of her time head down on her mobile device… obviously 'social networking...' I couldn't help feeling that she was missing out on the 'real atmosphere' of the event.

 

This also got me to thinking of a recent conversation I had with my 10 year old son, Finn, regarding a very real-world recent event he was involved in.  Like most kids his age he loves all things Internet, App based, game based and iPod (mobile) based and he's just also moving into the whole social media 'Pandora's Box' too.   However, the real world event I refer to required none of these devices or social media skills.  As one of the members of his local Scout group, Finn was lucky enough to be selected to help at the recent Isle of Man TT races as one of the operators of the old 'manual' scoreboard at the TT Grandstand.  I asked him, after his day at the races, whether he had enjoyed it.  "Wow, it was amazing" he said, "I loved it!"  What did you really like about it? I asked.  "Well, it was kind of everything… running up and down working the scoreboard; the loud noise of the bikes, the fantastic speed as they zoomed past so close; the smell of the racing; being with my mates, being a real part of it, and well just the overall 'atmosphere', I guess…" he said with real bubbling enthusiasm. 

This got me to thinking about the general and modern parental challenges of these Internet trends, mobile devices and the whole social media sharing phenomenon and how they may affect such real experiences.

Sharing everything we do, it's an interesting and sometimes challenging concept, particularly challenging to someone of my age demographic, a late 40's father of 3, (let alone my fathers!), but when looking at some of the stats in which countries do people tend to 'share' things the most I was surprised to find that the USA at 15% and GB at 11% are way below the average of 24% whereas countries like India, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia are well above 50% 'sharers'. Clearly there is either a cultural difference here or is it more to do with how these emerging markets by nature readily engage with this sharing trend in general.

But will all these Internet trends and devices, current and new, and all the new ways we can 'socially interact' really be all that 'truly social' in the end? Thinking back to both the girl that wasn't paying attention to a live act just in front of her and my 10 year old son's comments about "what made a recent 'real-life' event great?" - I hope that in the future we don't get to such a point that we are posing the serious question "where has all the real atmosphere gone…"?