There are 4.66 billion active internet users worldwide

Almost 60% of the global population are active internet users (Source: Statista).

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Kaitlyn Mora
April 2, 2021 6:47 pm

Historically when a segment of a population left their homeland and settled in a new place, their language remained the same. But over time an accent developed. New words and phrases derived from the local environment soon assimilated into the language. A greater divergence occurred between the language the settlers spoke and the language of their descendants.

The internet is the new ‘place’ of our time, and with 4.66 billion active users globally it is without doubt changing languages of the world. Previously, the word “like” was a verb. A person liked someone or something. With the emergence of Facebook and other social media platforms, “like” became a noun. A like is now an object or an item that can be quantified. You can give a like and you can receive one. You can post something and get a thousand likes.

You no longer search for something on the internet. You “google” it. To google something (or “googlear” in Spanish) would have meant nothing 30 years ago. I remember watching the Late Show with David Letterman a few years after Google had launched. It was probably around 2003. Letterman was talking about searching for something on the internet and he said he would google it. The crowd broke into laughter when he dropped that line. It was a novel phrase that hadn’t fully caught on, but today it’s completely normal.

Now if you go deeper into the internet there are all kinds of words, phrases and acronyms that bear little resemblance to the English of 20 years ago. I’ve seen the evolution of “LOL” follow these stages:

Late 90s – early 2000s: People asking what LOL means.

2002 – 2009: People stop asking what LOL means but don’t use it in actual conversations.

2010 – 2015: A few people actually saying LOL in regular conversations, prompting others to ask, “Did you actually say LOL?”

2016 onwards: People using LOL as a regular word. For example, “I heard a funny joke last night and I LOL’d hard”.

These dates aren’t set in stone but it is what I have observed. Then we have words like “pwned”, which has its own hilarious history of someone misspelling “owned” in an online game. Internet language is evolving rapidly. With more users, better technology and new platforms, expect new words and phrases to be adopted into our everyday conversations.

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Jason Ng
March 31, 2021 10:30 pm

Situations like these are fascinating in that we’ve come such a long way. World Bank data says in 1990 only 0.05% of the world population used the internet. Fast forward a decade later at the time when the dot-com boom was in full swing. Still only 6.74% of the world population used the internet. That’s an absolutely tiny figure when you compare it to today. In 2000 at the height of the dot-com bubble, just over 3 million people were using the internet!

A decade later in 2010 giants of the internet such as YouTube, Facebook, Google, Baidu and Tencent had established themselves. Internet usage on mobile phones was growing too. The change was stark. By 2010 approximately 2 billion people, almost a third of the world population, were using the internet. A 666-fold increase in 10 years. Truly exponential. The momentum wouldn’t stop there.

Over the next 6 years from 2010-2016, internet usage would increase by an average of 2.84% each year, culminating in 45.79% of the world population using the internet by 2016. In the 5 years that have followed, we have blasted through the midway mark of half the global population. As of 2021, 59.5% of the global population uses the internet – a huge number using mobile devices to do so.

The take up of the internet has been astounding in a short span of time. The internet has changed the world so much. But it begs the question. If we’re only at 59.5% of the global population, how will the world change when we reach 70% or 80%? Time will tell.

[Stats sourced from World Bank, Statista & Our World in Data].

Anna Alonso
April 4, 2021 11:21 am

We are living in a world of Big Data, a term that was popularized from 2002 onwards when total global digital storage exceeded analog storage (http://www.martinhilbert.net/WorldInfoCapacity.html). I don’t know if the phrase still does justice to how much data 4.66 billion internet users create every day. Every action we take is creating data. Searching for something on Google, responding to a WhatsApp message, watching a documentary on Netflix. We are all contributing to the creation of data, either actively or passively.

Looking at Internet Live Stats can make your head spin. Every second:

  • Over 90,000 Google searches are occurring.
  • Over 3 million emails are sent (67% of those emails are spam).
  • 89,000 YouTube videos are watched.
  • 5,000 Skype calls are made.
  • 9,000 Tweets are posted.

The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2025 we will create 463 exabytes of data globally every day. An exabyte is 1,000^6 bytes or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes. Perhaps our usage of MB and GB will become redundant as we continue to create more data. We’re already starting to talk in terms of gigabytes and terabytes.

The concern is where all this data can be stored. A lot of people respond that you can just “save it in the cloud” but don’t understand that this requires physical servers! These servers are dotted around the globe in warehouses of hard drives piled upon each other in endless rows of connected cables. Fortunately experts say that we have more than enough server space for the time being. But the number of internet users and the data we create is growing every day, so alternatives are being explored. Data compression is becoming more advanced and solutions such as data storage in DNA is a realistic possibility.

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Hussaini Azri
April 3, 2021 4:54 pm

It is difficult to imagine, but there was a time when people were uncertain about whether the internet would catch on. Certainly this is a feeling many investors and shareholders would have agreed with after the dot com bubble burst in the early 2000s. Once it was clear internet use was here to stay, scepticism moved to mobile internet.

When Netflix was planning an internet streaming service for users to watch films, a common question was, “Who wants to watch a movie on their mobile or laptop?” It was expected that the experience of a cinema or a wide-screen TV was superior to that of a mobile or laptop. People had their preferences and there was no way they would watch a movie on a little device you can hold in your hands, right? How wrong they were. Mobile is now by far the most common way people access the internet.

From a person perspective I didn’t think I would ever be comfortable searching for stuff on mobile. Any time I had to do some research or find some info, I would boot up the desktop or laptop and get to work. It didn’t take long for things to change. Now I am just as comfortable working on mobile while my old desktop is in a corner collecting dust.

I don’t blame people being sceptical of mobile internet. There is no such thing as guaranteed success. Actually I still find myself not appreciating the scale of things. For example when I go on Facebook, I see a few posts from my friends. A few photos here and there and some comments. Nothing major. Nothing about this would make you think that Facebook is a company with a market capitalization of $800 billion. Appearances can be deceiving. Until you realize that there are 2.8 billion other users doing the same thing as me, logging on and seeing what their friends are up to.

Scepticism of the internet still exists. Not in the same form, however. We know the internet has been adopted in ways we never could have imagined several decades ago. But now the scepticism is about the benefits of the internet. Fierce debates continue about governance, privacy and security. The internet is touted as a revolutionary technology that has connected millions of people. But no one can deny that in many ways it is causing more and more division.

Anita Chan
April 5, 2021 5:18 pm

The latest statistics show that we are rapidly on course to reach 5 billion internet users in 2021. Looking at Worldometer information, we are already at 4.87 billion users as of April 2021. 93% of internet users access the internet through their mobiles, an item that was once considered a luxury, and 90% are users of social media (Source: Statista). These are incredible figures but for me the real story is the inequality of distribution.

99% of the United Arab Emirates population has access to the internet. This is the highest internet penetration rate in the world, closely followed by Denmark and Sweden, which both have a penetration rate of 98%. But on the other side of the world, North Korea has an internet penetration rate close to 0%.

The internet has been a big part of our lives for 2 decades. It is sad to see that some countries are missing out on the development, education and commercial opportunities that the internet has provided. More importantly the internet has empowered people all over the world. We can see how people live in other countries and can therefore demand our governments and politicians to do better if they fall short on their commitments. For North Korea, providing internet access to the population would be self-defeating. The regime’s legitimacy depends very much on the population’s ignorance. They are told they live in the most advanced country on earth and have to suffer deprivation and shortages because of their enemies. The internet would be a form of awakening to them, seeing and learning about a world outside their borders that enjoys a much higher standard of living. They would also learn about a world in which authority isn’t absolute and is open to criticism. It would only be a matter of time before the country would undergo serious upheaval.

Inequality of internet penetration doesn’t just exist between countries. It also exists within countries. China is the country with the largest number of internet users in the world. But its penetration rate is quite low at only 59.3% compared to countries like Japan and South Korea, whose internet penetration rates both exceed 90% (https://www.statista.com/topics/1179/internet-usage-in-china/).