Internet Growth, e-Commerce Expands Globally

Interest in Facebook’s pending IPO is huge -- and for good reason: New research from GlobalWebIndex shows that nearly 60% of the world’s Internet users manage a social network profile on a monthly basis, up from 36% just two-and-a-half years ago.

But according to the survey, the news is mixed for Facebook. The good news: The number of visits to the world’s largest social network continues to grow across all platforms. The not-so-good news: Facebook has reached saturation in many markets, with user growth restricted to growing Internet markets, such as India, Indonesia and Brazil. 

In 2011, Facebook users on a global basis have reduced the frequency of key activities, including searching for new contacts and sending messages to friends.

The survey indicated that from July of 2009 to November 2011, messaging friends declined 12%, searching for new contacts fell 17% and joining a group of Facebook users dropped 19% in the U.S.

Tom Smith, managing director of GWI, stated "...consumers in emerging, fast-growing Internet markets such as Brazil, China, India or Indonesia are contributing more online than ever before, leaving behind traditional markets such as the UK, U.S. and Germany.”

Smith also said the notion that the "Internet would drive a singular global culture is false. Brands and content producers will need ever more localized strategies.” 

The latest GWI survey was conducted in November of 2011 with about 40,000 Internet users in 27 countries. 

The latest research also found that e-commerce is big business in developed markets and growing in emerging Internet economies. Just over 59% of global Internet users had purchased a product online in the past month, and 53% had reviewed a product.

In contrast to social media, developed Internet markets lead the way in e-commerce, with 78% of South Korean internet users purchasing a product in the last month, followed by 72% in Germany and the UK. By contrast, in Saudi Arabia just 27% had purchased a product online. 

The survey also concluded that Google has “massively improved its position as the world’s biggest controller of information and is starting to dominate all access points to the Internet.” Its core search product reaches more than 85% of global Internet users every month, up from 76% in July 2009.

Even in markets where local search competitors are strong, Google has also gained major traction. In Russia, for example, it now has 82% monthly reach compared to more than 90% for local search engine Yandex.

Google’s browser, Chrome, and mobile operating system Android have also experienced strong growth, per the survey. Chrome is now the most widely used browser in the Philippines, Turkey, Argentina and India. And Android now has 227 million active users across the 27 countries surveyed, with 33% of global smartphones utilizing it.

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