Data dump: the state of the internet

Venture capitalist Mary Meeker’s annual State of the Internet presentation has become required reading for those interested in how the online era is affecting human behaviour—and so business, transport, security, healthcare, education, communication, regulation and pretty much everything else. And the 2015 version once again condenses the major tech-inspired trends into one handy slide deck. 

Among the more interesting trends for this market is the attention now dedicated to mobile rather than desktop in the US (slide 14). Overall hours spent online is up significantly and now over half of all time spent online is on mobile. As Nieman Lab points out, the gap between attention minutes and ad spend on mobile is now closing (slide 16), with Facebook’s mobile ad revenue largely responsible for the rise. As a result, the gap is also closing for print, but in the opposite direction. 

Video is also on Meeker’s radar, with Facebook’s autoplay video starting to eat into the dominant player, YouTube (slide 60), with four billion views a day, many of them from shares. In this modern era, she says the importance of social media should not be underestimated, whether it’s for getting news, sharing selfies or giving customer feedback. 

Consumers are now accustomed to getting things immediately, and she says that trend will continue. Smaller start-ups have been born in this world and are catering to that need. But it’s something larger legacy companies need to fully grasp. 

Better user experiences have already come in big consumer spending sectors like shelter, transportation and food in the form of businesses like Airbnb, Uber and Instacart (slide 80). And many of these tools are also allowing people to earn extra income (slide 133). These businesses are now trying to navigate difficult regulatory systems, often involving laws that were enshrined decades ago (slide 143). But some, like Stubhub (slide 145), have proven that their markets can be allies to regulators. 

The rise of connectivity has created a range of online marketplaces. And ecommerce has also increased its charge and now accounts for ten percent of all purchases in the US (slide 120). That looks set to increase as a range of social networks and Google deploy their ‘buy’ buttons (slide 21). 

Among her other noted trends are the very close attachment—some might say addiction—to phones among young people (slide 69), the growth of drones (slide 82), the danger of cyber attacks (slide 88), the rise of China (slide 97), social changes like fewer marriages among millenials and declining family size (slide 107), the huge number of millenials in the workforce and their different attitudes to work (slide 108), and the rise of freelancers (126). 

Here’s Meeker’s high-level summary

  • Job Market – Has been more difficult & work has been harder to find for many
  • Benefits – Traditional employer-provided benefits like health insurance & retirement plans falling…Recipients of government benefits rising
  • Millennials – Have different expectations for work than previous generations, for now…Shaped, in part, by Great Recession
  • Connectivity – Has created efficiencies & changed work for many • Work – Alternative work arrangements (including freelancing) increasing…Competition for workers may rise with demand 
  • Online Platforms / Marketplaces Growing Rapidly – Creating new work opportunities & challenges for individuals…These will continue to rise, similar to trends / impact from first-generation Internet companies, potentially faster / broader
  • Need to Shape Direction & Evolve Policies & Laws – Industry participants (workers / businesses / governments) need to work together to be more aligned with rapidly emerging ways of doing business & creating work & recognize that emerging technologies / marketplaces can help solve for consumer & worker welfare
  • Innovative Online Platforms / Marketplaces Stand to Continue to Benefit Consumers – As evidenced by strong demand for their products & services…
  • Impact of Social Media (+ Feedback / Ratings) Should Not be Underestimated – Empowered consumers increasingly – in effect – take elements of consumer protection into their own hands

And she finished off her presentation with a non-tech but very human by saying that the most effective decision making is often made by diverse groups of people. 

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