Internet in 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

Internet is now virtual home to a quarter of the World population.

Modern Tower of Babel, 1.5 billion people communicate through Internet in countless languages.
Almost 500 million communicate in English, 300 milion in Chinese, 120 million in Spanish, 100 millions in Japanese, 70 million in both french and Portuguese, 60 million in German, 40 million in Arabic, Russian and Korean but also 250 million in a large number of other languages.

Domain Names give access to around 2 trillion pages being seen every month. Since the beginning of the World Wide Web adventure, a little less than twenty years ago, 156 million domain names have been registered. But less than half only are estimated to be in use : around 65 million are active, and every web user visits on average 66 of them each month.

Blogs (from 'Web log'), appeared in 2002. There would be 150 million of them today, but only 7.5 million were updated in the last 120 days, 1.5 million updated last week, and 1 million in the last 24 hours ! Today blogs seem to be divided in two large categories; less active 'personal pages' blogs on one hand, more active and more 'professional' blogs on the other hand, the latter being increasingly advertising- and profit-driven. Many of the most active blogs today tend to be oriented towards products' and services' advertising. Despite strong values of consumer protection and information being present in bloggers communities (usually adults from 25 to 40 yrs old), ties between bloggers and brands are even more frequent and driven by self-interest.

Social Networks and Community Websites today have around 250 million active members and more than 600 million 'one-time' visitors, making up 40% of Internet users ! Concentration is to say the least high with two networks, MySpace and Facebook, representing 70% of this global phenomenon. They have a dominant position in all but a few countries (China, Japan, Brasil). Active members are young - only 20 % under 40 -, their first motivation 'to stay in touch with their circle of friends' (for more than 80%), then 'to share their interests and hobbies' (51%) and 'to meet new people' (48%). One can envisage that the maturing phenomenon may consequently lead to some more diverse and distinctive thematic 'micro-communities'.

Wikipedia plays an exceptionnal role in the participative world : close to 700 million visits in 2008 of the 10 million articles in 250 languages shared by 75,000 contributors since 2001, building this amateurs' encyclopedia. But a closer look to the Wikipedia story shows that some kind of 'professionalisation' was self-born in Wikipedia; hence, in this project open to 'all', 524 people, or 0,7% of users are doing 50% of the site modifications and only 2% of active users have achieved, the 1,400 of them, 73% of Wikipedia since the beginning! Same story for another hugely successful 'collaborative' network,, where 20% of articles making it to the front page come from a selective group of around two dozen people (5,257 articles out of 25,260). The top 100 'diggers' pushed 14,249 articles to the Front-page, 56% of the total !

With Twitter a new development seems to unfold today, leading the Web towards more simultaneous communication. This blend of social network and micro-blog proposes a new form of communication, re-drawing the map of information.

The participative Web (Web 2.0) offers a great opportunity to the "Citizen of the World" to cross the borders of traditional public space, and to re-invent his relationship with public powers and sciences. Will He take his chance ? Many past experiences show this kind of dynamics is often eventually 'framed' and used for commercial purposes. Their influence is nevertheless very noticeable on the schools of thought, on the interactions between producers and consumers, institutions and electors, media and readers, re-distributing a hand where individual expression counts more and so at every instant.

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