March 8, 2010

Visualising the internet

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The BBC has published a very snazzy, interactive map showing how internet penetration has deepened and spread across the globe between 1988 and 2008.

A simple slider enables you to skip through the years, picking out landmark developments at different intervals. Surprisingly, given its size and dominance today, China’s relationship with the internet didn’t start gaining serious traction until 2003.

Perhaps, it’s even more surprising to see that internet penetration in China still lags behind the rest of the world, but surely not for long as more people move from the countryside to the country’s growing cities.

I was also confounded to learn that the UK lagged behind Australia, Iceland, and New Zealand back in 1998 in terms of what percentage of people in those countries were online.

However, as the UK has a far greater population than those three countries it’s perhaps not that surprising on closer inspection.

But, on a personal note, I now realise how far ahead of the curve my parents were back in 1996 when we first began surfing the web at home.

Just two years later, only 16-20% of the UK population was online. Major props to the folks for that one. Yet, my mother still routinely asks for help with her internet set up, despite clearly being something of a trail blazer back in the mid-nineties.

You can play around with the interactive map here.

Separately, it’s interesting to compare and contrast the spread of internet usage with a recently published diagram showing where Google get its revenues from, enabling the search giant to become the main beneficiary from the inexorable rise of the internet in a purely commercial sense.

It’s worth noting that despite all the hype and investment in recent years behind apps, browsers and Google-owned sites, search accounts for by far and away the lions share of the company’s revenues, though you could argue the brand halo effect of these new ventures means that they all inextricably linked to one another.