Digital In 2018: World’S Internet Users Pass The 4 Billion Mark

The 2018 Global Digital reports highlight a significant milestone – over 4 billion people worldwide now use the internet.

Internet access has expanded to encompass over half of the global population, with nearly 250 million individuals joining the online community for the first time in 2017. The African continent, in particular, has experienced remarkable growth, with a 20 percent increase in internet users year after year.

This surge in internet essay users can be attributed to the growing affordability of smartphones and mobile data plans. In 2017 alone, over 200 million individuals acquired their first mobile device, and today, two-thirds of the world's 7.6 billion inhabitants own a mobile phone.

Furthermore, more than half of these mobile devices are "smart," providing people with easy access to a rich online experience from virtually anywhere.

Social media usage is also on a rapid upward trajectory. The leading platform in each country has seen nearly 1 million new users daily over the past year. A staggering 3 billion people now engage with social media monthly, and an impressive 9 out of 10 users access their chosen platforms via mobile devices.

In summary, the key insights from this year's reports are as follows:

  • The global internet user count for 2018 is 4.021 billion, marking a 7 percent year-on-year increase.
  • Social media users in 2018 total 3.196 billion, reflecting a 13 percent year-on-year rise.
  • The number of mobile phone users in 2018 stands at 5.135 billion, demonstrating a 4 percent year-on-year growth.

digital across the world infographic

So, what can we gather from all this valuable data?

A Billion Years Online

The increase in internet users isn't the only noteworthy trend; the time individuals dedicate to the internet has also grown over the past year.
According to recent data from GlobalWebIndex, the typical internet user now devotes approximately 6 hours daily to internet-connected devices and services. This amounts to roughly a third of their waking hours.

When we aggregate this across all 4 billion internet users worldwide, it equates to an astonishing 1 billion years spent online in 2018.

Sharing the Future

As we highlighted in last year's analysis, internet access isn't distributed evenly across the globe. This remains the case in 2018, but there are signs of change.

Although internet access is still limited in many parts of Central Africa and Southern Asia, these regions are experiencing the most rapid internet adoption.

In Africa, the number of users has surged by over 20 percent year after year. For instance, Mali has witnessed an astounding nearly six-fold increase in internet users since January 2017. Furthermore, countries like Benin, Sierra Leone, Niger, and Mozambique have more than doubled their internet user counts in the past year.

internet penetration ranking infographic
But it's not just about adding "the next billion." The acceleration of internet access in developing economies will impact the online experience for users worldwide. Companies like Google, Facebook, Alibaba, and Tencent are working to provide scalable global products tailored to the needs and contexts of these new users. These changes will have a profound influence on the future of the internet, and we'll delve into this topic further in an upcoming blog post in the next few days.

Mobile Connections Everywhere

Today, over two-thirds of the world's population own a mobile device, and most of them are using smartphones.
The count of unique mobile users across the globe has grown by over 4 percent year after year. However, mobile penetration rates remain below 50 percent in many parts of Central Africa.

mobile users connections infographic

Smartphones are the top choice worldwide for accessing the internet, responsible for a larger portion of web traffic than all other devices combined.

Moreover, it's essential to note that this data pertains solely to web usage. Recent insights from App Annie reveal that people now dedicate seven times more time to mobile apps than mobile web browsers. This means that mobile's influence on the internet is probably even more substantial than the statistics above indicate.

Facebook's latest data further underscores this trend, as only 5 percent of the platform's global user base do not access it through a mobile device.

share of facebook device use infographic

Eleven New Users Every Second

In the last year, almost 1 million individuals embraced social media daily, translating to over 11 fresh users joining each second. Globally, the count of social media users has surged by 13 percent within the past year, with Central and Southern Asia leading the charge, boasting growth rates of 90 percent and 33 percent, respectively.

Among our 40 focus economies, Saudi Arabia has claimed the title for the swiftest individual country growth rate at 32 percent, closely followed by India, which boasts a 31 percent annual rise in social media users.

annual growth of social media users infographic

As part of this expansion, we're witnessing a notable increase in older individuals joining social media platforms. Just on Facebook, the count of users aged 65 and above has risen by nearly 20 percent over the last year.

Teenagers are also contributing to the growth, although the increase in users aged 13 to 17 has been more moderate, with only a 5 percent uptick since January 2017.

Facebook still dominates

It’s been another good year for Mark Zuckerberg and team, with all of Facebook Inc.’s platforms posting impressive growth during 2017.

Facebook’s core platform still dominates the global social landscape, with total users up 15 percent year-on-year to reach almost 2.17 billion at the start of 2018.

active users of global social platforms infographic

WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, however, experienced double the growth rate of the main Facebook platform. The user count for each messaging app surged by 30 percent year after year.

In terms of user numbers, both apps are evenly matched, but data from SimilarWeb reveals that WhatsApp holds a stronger geographic presence. WhatsApp has ascended as the leading messenger app in 128 countries globally, while Facebook Messenger claims this title in 72 countries.

Remarkably, there are now only 25 countries worldwide where a messenger platform not owned by Facebook takes the top spot.

top messenger apps by country infographic

Decline in Natural Exposure Persists

In this year's reports, we've collaborated with Locowise to provide insights into Facebook's reach and engagement across 179 countries globally. As anticipated, both organic reach and engagement have experienced declines in the past year, with average reach dropping by over 10 percent year-on-year.

Despite these disheartening trends, these figures serve as crucial reference points for marketers worldwide. They provide valuable insights, particularly regarding the prevalence of brands employing paid advertising, as illustrated in the chart below (a condensed summary of slides 69 and 72 from the Digital in 2018 report).

global facebook reach and engagement infographic

Speedier Mobile Connections

Mobile data connections are showing improvements in speed worldwide. According to GSMA Intelligence, over 60 percent of mobile connections can now be categorized as 'broadband.'

Nonetheless, there exist notable disparities in mobile connection speeds among nations. In Norway, for instance, mobile users relish average download speeds exceeding 60 Mbps, which is nearly three times the global average.

In six countries, such as the Netherlands, Singapore, and the UAE, mobile users now experience average connection speeds exceeding 50 Mbps. Conversely, in 18 countries, including India and Indonesia, mobile users grapple with average connection speeds below 10 Mbps.

mobile internet connection speed ranking inforgraphic

Fortunately, there's some positive news: average mobile connection speeds have surged by over 30 percent in the past year.

And it's not just good news for those who can't stand slow loading times; faster connections could also contribute to stress reduction. Studies indicate that even minor delays of a few seconds while buffering video content can induce the same anxiety levels as watching a horror movie alone or tackling a complex math problem.

In part, these speedier download rates have led to the global average smartphone user now devouring nearly 3GB of data each month – marking a more than 50 percent increase since this time last year.

global mobile data growth infographic

Surge in E-commerce Spending

Recent findings from Statista's Digital Market Outlook reveal a substantial 16 percent growth in the total value of the consumer goods e-commerce market in the past year. The combined annual expenditure in 2017 approached nearly US$1.5 trillion, with fashion products emerging as the largest individual category.

ecommerce detail consimer goods infographic

Globally, the count of individuals using e-commerce platforms to purchase consumer goods, such as fashion, food, electronics, and toys, has increased by 8 percent. Presently, nearly 1.8 billion people across the globe engage in online shopping.

Approximately 45 percent of all internet users now turn to e-commerce websites for their shopping needs. However, the degree of adoption varies significantly from one country to another.

eccommerce penetration infographic

Individual e-commerce expenditures are on the rise as well, with average revenues per user (ARPU) increasing by 7 percent year-on-year, reaching US$833. The British hold the title for the most significant e-commerce spending, with annual per-user spending in the UK surpassing US$2,000.

It's important to note that these figures pertain solely to consumer goods. When we factor in spending across other categories like travel, digital content, and mobile apps, the total global e-commerce value is expected to approach the vicinity of US$2 trillion.

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