The Demographics of Internet Users – Who Are We?

Just received a google alert about the release of data from Pingdom on the growth of the Internet in 2011. Fascinating data but there’s something missing – it doesn’t report on who we are. Email usage – huge. Website growth – no stopping it. Internet usage around the world – the US is big but certainly not the biggest. The only data reported on demographic characteristics is age – 45 percent of Internet users are under age 25.

There are 2.1 BILLION, yes billion, Internet users worldwide. That’s almost one-third of every human being on earth! But is it really? How do they count them? If I access the Internet at my home, and on a different machine at the library, and a different machine at work, and a different machine at school, am I one user or four? I hate it when data is reported without any information about how it’s derived. I teach my students to always source their information and talk about how they get it.

I find it really hard to put these data to use helping clients understand how to effectively use the Internet and reach their ideal customer. It’s great to know the Internet world is expanding at a rapid pace but I need to know who the users are and how best to reach them. Guess that’s the price of being a demographer and always wanting more out of the data. After all, how does anyone know the age of Internet users unless they do a sample survey or rely on Facebook users giving their birth dates?

So much for the griping about more data. Here’s some of the other interesting stuff coming from Pingdom:

  • There were an estimated 100 billion photos on Facebook by mid-2011 (wonder how they “estimated” it – sorry, can’t help myself).
  • 1 Trillion video playbacks on YouTube – can you imagine the servers required to handle that volume?
  • 82.5 percent of the U.S. audience that viewed video online
  • 800 million Facebook users at the end of 2011
  • 100 million active Twitter users
  • Asia tops the list of Internet users at almost 925 million. China is the nation with the largest number of users at 485 million.
  • Also 600 million fixed (wired) broadband subscriptions worldwide – and even in New York, I can’t get one!
  • 71 percent of worldwide email traffic was spam – can definitely believe that!


I’m used to a world of demographic data that is location based like the Census. It’s relatively easy to interpret population numbers for a community or county. But this new world of Internet and social media use – worldwide – is a completely different animal and has some many different applications in the business world.

A new horizon to explore!!

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