Aonghus Flynn, Web Developer

The future of the internet

Last week, at the Web 2.0 Summit, Mary Meeker of kpcb, one of techs most important investment companies, presented their view of the future of the web. As an investment company whose portfolio includes the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Groupon, Spotify and Zynga just to name a few, they have to know where the web is going.

In a short and entertaining slot, Mary outlined their view of the future of the web. You can see the talk here and download the full deck here

Starting with the theme of 'globality', kpcb outlined the top 25 websites in the world (based on market value). Mostly, these sites are US based, but there is a growing trend in Chinese and Russian sites, for example the Chinese site Baidu is 5th largest site in the world. One interesting statistic was that the vast majority of the users of the largest websites are from outside the US, 81% in fact.

The number of new users in the last 3 years also threw up a few surprises. The top five countries are China, India, Nigeria, Russia and Iran. It would be interesting to see if any Irish businesses are targeting any of these countries.

Social networking seems to really capture peoples time especially in Israel, Argentina, Turkey and Chile spending more than 10hours a month on social networking sites.

Unsurprisingly, the growth of mobile is a continuing trend with a 35% growth in global 3g subscribers. No doubt the increase in smart phones like iPhones and Android phones has something to do with this. In 2010, smartphone sales surpassed ordinary phones in Western Europe. There is still a long way to go for smart phones to go as there 835 million smartphone subscribers and 5.6 Billion mobile subscribers.

Mobile usage of sites such as Pandora, Twitter and Facebook has increased dramatically since 2008. For example Pandora mobile usage increased from 5% to 60% in that space of time. Google mobile queries quadrupled in the last year. Mobile advertising has ramped dramatically as well, up to $12Bn in 2011E.

The next part of the presentation involved the changes in the way that we interact with computers, the evolution of the user interface as it moved from text based to graphical to sensory. Touch and sound now form a large part of the user experience. This is mainly thanks to the visionary work of Steve Jobs and the iPad.

According to Mary the next big thing is audio. Sites like Spotify (unfortunately not available in Ireland yet) and SoundCloud are leading the way in this regard. Voice services, like the newly released siri on iPhone and Google voice search are another example.

E-commerce online continues to grow against offline, with online accounting for 8% of total retail sales in the US. Mobile sales continued to grow also. Another interesting fact is the way that consumers are using their mobile devices to check prices before making a purchase. 52% of smartphone users gave the reason for abandoning a purchase in-store, that they found it online for a better price. That means that these people were in the store before abandoning their purchase. 51% gave “Found it at another store for a better price” as their reason. It shows that with smartphones, people can check prices in other shops, while they are in your store.

Mobile and online can also help with real world commerce. Sites like Groupon and Foursquare are driving business to local companies. For example a friend of mine is currently the ‘Mayor’ of Brambles in Sandyford through Foursquare. He got a free mushroom soup, and made me want to knock him off his perch.

Advertising spend online still has massive growth potential. The spend on advertising compared with time spent online does not correspond. There is a potential market of $20bn in online and mobile up for grabs in the US alone. Print media is going to be the loser, with revenues dropping for the fifth year in a row.

According to kpcb, the biggest trend in the near future is the empowerment of people through mobile devices. 85% of the worlds population is covered by wireless signals. To put that into context, only 80% of the worlds population has access to electricity.

The rest of the presentation is mostly about the US economy, the highlights being; there is lots of uncertainty and the US has too much debt.

So what does all this mean for Irish businesses? For a start you should have a global focus. If you have a website, it should work on smartphones. If you don’t have a website, why not? It’s easy to set up.

Your business should also be on facebook and twitter. Social networks are your customers are, so it makes sense for your business to have a presence there no matter if you are a local petrol station/shop or a global multinational.