According to comScore, Global Internet Audience has surpassed 1 billion visitors. While on technology forums the news was barely covered, let alone analyzed, and publications like The Economist didn’t offer further intel, I think the implications deserve more discussion.
In brief, comScore reports China contributed 179,710 unique visitors in December 2008, while the United States (the traditional leader) only 163,300. For China this represents barely 13% of their population while for the U.S. is around 55%. Using Gapminder we can compare the Internet penetration vs. Income to visualize the trend (even though only 2006 data is available):
Over two years ago I wrote the post déjà vu, forecasting that the total penetration of Chinese users would reach 35%, using a simple comparison with the adoption of a similar technology back in the 90’s: the telephone. Considering that there are similarities in the way the two technologies are deployed, it is reasonable to use the comparison. In the case of the telephone it took China about 8 years to reach that milestone. The baseline I had used for this comparison was 2004 so we still have a few more years to go, but imagine half a billion Chinese users (35% of their population) on the web! That is more users than the next 12 countries combined today.
As we get closer to this milestone, I think the following trends will be observed:
- Larger amounts of user generated content will originate from Chinese users, shifting the conversation to the East and carrying with it all the services associated with it. Forget China being a “resource” economy.
- Web sites will sacrifice features for the sake of simplicity in order to embrace such a large user base (think Twitter).
- We’ll see the surge of web sites ideated with the Chinese culture at heart. The rest of the world will be left out unless we make a serious effort to understand our cultural differences. Baidu is just the beginning.
- Demystification of China as a destination will accelerate its relevance as a tourist destination. Put Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Xiamen, Chengdu, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Chongqing, Tianjin and Wuhan in your places to visit within the next 10 years. We’ll hear a lot more about them.