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Ipsos: Global Internet Growth Slowed in 2005

Demand for Web access may not be as limitless as it once seemed, at least for the time being, according to a new survey of worldwide Internet usage.

The global online population grew by a modest 5 percent, year-over-year in 2005, finds Ipsos Insight’s latest annual "The Face of the Web" study. While that shows that Internet usage continues to grow, the growth rate is slowing – down from a dramatic 20 percent growth rate in 2004, according to Ipsos Insight. “Prospects for growth in 2006 may be just as temperate,” the report states.

Market research consultancy Ipsos Insight has been tracking global Internet developments since 1999. This year’s survey was based on interviews in 12 key global markets with more than 6,500 adults, including 3,462 active Internet users, the firm said.

Among the survey’s findings: new users in Japan led other countries in 2005.

“Japan, now accounts for roughly 75 million users [and] also remains the world’s No.1 Internet-based economy, as nearly nine in ten (89 percent) claim to have used the Internet in the past 30 days, while users averaged nearly 14 hours per week online,” the report says.

“France witnessed the most significant year-over-year gains in Internet adoption," the report adds. "Just over 60 percent of adults age 18 or older in France use the Internet regularly, representing more than a 12-point increase from 2004 (48 percent).”

In contrast, growth rates in the United States and Canada remained “essentially flat” from 2004 to 2005, largely due to already high rates of Internet use (71 and 72 percent respectively). New users may not be the most important metric, however.

“We think the results in 2005 really prove that measuring growth of the Internet in the coming years will be less about user volume, and more about consumers’ reliance on this medium as a way of life,” said Brian Cruikshank, senior vice president and managing director of the company's Technology and Communications practice, in a statement.

The new report also finds that the rising level of notebook PC ownership in the United States and Canada is fueling significant growth in wireless Internet access. Indeed, North America leads the world in wireless Internet access via PC. “At least one-third of North Americans (U.S. and Canada) have accessed the Internet wirelessly in the past 30 days – significantly higher than rates seen in 2004,” the report continues.

In Europe, France and Germany will likely drive Internet growth in 2006, as will urban Russia, where Internet usage remains a scarce but is on the rise. In addition, future growth in wireless Internet access via handset/cell phone looks promising in Europe.

Use of Voice over Internet Protocol telephony is also rising steadily in France, Germany and the United Kingdom, indicating these nations may be emerging as the early adopter markets for this Internet technology.

Meanwhile, urban China is quickly evolving into “one of the most dynamic Internet-based economies in the world. It boasts not only the heaviest Internet usage of any of the countries measured (17.9 hours per week online), but also . . . only 50 percent of individuals have accessed the Internet in the past 30 days there, far behind usage in other major East Asian markets,” the report concludes.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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