U.S. Share of Internet Users Continues to Shrink, ‘Hypergrowth’ Over

Use of Internet in Past 30 Days
Region 1999
Sweden 53% 65% 12%
Canada 56% 60% 4%
U.S. 59% 59% 0%
Netherlands 40% 57% 17%
Switzerland 45% 51% 6%
Australia 48% 54% 6%
Finland 44% 53% 9%
Singapore 33% 46% 13%
South Korea 31% 45% 14%
U.K. 33% 35% 2%
Germany 29% 37% 8%
Belgium 28% 36% 8%
Urban Mexico 27% 33% 6%
Hong Kong 35% 34% -1%
Taiwan 29% 35% 6%
France 22% 30% 8%
Japan 33% 33% 0%
Urban Malaysia 23% 26% 3%
Italy 16% 28% 12%
Urban Brazil 21% 22% 1%
Urban Colombia 14% 17% 3%
Spain 18% 22% 4%
Urban Egypt 8% 17% 9%
Urban China 12% 21% 9%
Urban South Africa 9% 6% -3%
Urban Argentina 13% 20% 7%
Poland 11% 19% 8%
Urban India 5% 9% 4%
Turkey 14% 13% -1%
Urban Russia 5% 6% 1%
Source: Ipsos-Reid

The United States still has more people online than any other country in the world, but its share of global users continues to shrink, according to a study by Ipsos-Reid.

The annual “The Face of the Web” study by Ipsos-Reid found the Internet to be entering a “post-revolutionary” phase as the growth of the Internet market in the most developed regions begins to level off. For example, the U.S. share of the world’s Internet users fell from 40 percent to 36 percent over the last year.

Western Europe (22 percent) plus the remainder of the English-speaking world (12 percent represented by Australia, Canada, urban South Africa and Britain) now form a bloc that rivals the American share of Internet users, according to Ipsos-Reid. Sweden (65 percent usage rate) and Canada (60 percent) have both surpassed the United States (59 percent) with the highest proportion of Internet users in the world.

As difficult as it may seem to believe, awareness of the Internet is not yet universal. At least one out of 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. Awareness of the Internet is almost universal in North America, Australia, Europe and Japan.

While the potential for new markets remains huge, but the Ipsos-Reid study also predicts that hypergrowth — the large, unsustainable growth rates that have been seen in many markets over the past five years — 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, and offices or Internet cafés represent the main alternatives. Even in the most technogically advanced countries in the world, about half of those without Internet access plan on keeping it that way.

“The Internet is now in its post-revolutionary phase,” said 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.”

Ipsos-Reid estimates that the Internet user population grew by about 13 percent year-over-year, putting the global Internet population at about 350 million adults at the end of last year (less than one-tenth of the world’s population).

Other findings from the Ipsos-Reid study include:

  • South Korea (45 percent usage rate) and Singapore (46 percent) now rival major European markets such as Germany (37 percent), Belgium (36 percent) and Britain (35 percent).
  • The desktop PC is used by 9 out of every 10 Internet users to go online. Only 7 percent primarily use a laptop and only 1 percent primarily use a wireless device. Many home have PCs without without Internet access. In France, 47 percent have a home PC, but just 23 percent have home Net access.
  • In every region where English is not the main language spoken, nine in ten Internet users prefer to get local information in their own language.
  • Nearly two-thirds of American Internet users have bought something online, as have 40 percent of users in other leading markets.

The “Face of the Web” study involved more than 28,000 interviews with online users in 30 countries and general consumers in 35 countries.

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