Globalization: Some Numbers

I’ve been thinking a lot about the global internet lately.

Here are the May comScore numbers for total Internet audience

Worldwide – 853mm (up 10% from 772mm last year)

North America – 185mm (up 4% from 178mm last year)

Europe – 240mm (up 8% from 223mm last year)

Asia – 323mm (up 14% from 283mm last year)

Latin America – 63mm (up 19% from 53mm last year)

Middle East/Africa – 43mm (up 23% from 35mm last year)

As is typically the case, the smallest markets are growing the fastest. But a couple other things stand out to me. Asia added 40mm Internet users in the past year. Europe added 17mm. Latin America added 10mm. Africa and the Middle East added more than North America.

It’s as Fareed Zakaria says "the US isn’t declining, but the rest of the world is rising".

And I’ll end this brief post with a link to Pascal Zachary’s article in the New York Times about technology in Nairobi, Kenya. If you, like me, are thinking about the global reach of technology and the Internet, then you should read it. This paragraph is telling:

Still, Nairobi is home to a digital brew that invites optimism
about its chances for creating unusual innovations. The city has
relatively few wired phone lines or networked personal computers, so
mobile phones are the essential digital tool. Four times as many people
have them as have bank accounts. Text messages are far more popular
than e-mail. Safaricom, the dominant mobile provider, offers a service
called M-pesa that lets customers send money with text messages. Nokia sells brand-new phones here for as little as $33.

The numbers at the top of this post are for computers (PCs) connected to the Internet. They would look very different if they were total internet connected devices (PCs + mobile phones).

When we went out to raise a second fund at the start of this year, we told our investors that the Internet was getting more global, more mobile, more social, more intelligent, and more playful.

Those are all big trends, but the first two are tightly linked and very powerful as Pascal’s article points out.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. shareme

    The two first trends change how a mobile start up might work. it use to be you specialized in Symbian C+, J2me and etc to build a platform. However, now with the the two first trends you adopt an Apple iPhone strategy whereas the web on mobile is the platform you code to with just ajax, html, css, and etc and hook it server side wise so that you can adopt fast to the market changes and thus get apps out fast. The start up can boot strap in using the Facebook platform as the user cloud computing platform and thus already have a market channel infrastructure and thus by-pass the mobile telecoms.

    1. fredwilson

      BingoThat’s why we’ve gone from shying away from mobile to embracing it big time

    2. Chris Dodge

      However, although the iPhone has a “web app” development approach with HTML/JS/CSS, there’s still alot of interest in native iPhone apps for a number of reasons (namely offline and local DB support).I’m sure there’s a lot of people buying Objective-C books these days.

      1. shareme

        With two monopoly locks both Apple ansd the Mobile Carrier its not a very worhwhile opportunity and that was Fred Wilson’s implied point in his answer to me..

  2. shareme

    I am working on an idea:) First phase fully self funded..

  3. eric norlin

    Fred-One of the sessions I’m most excited about for Defrag ( is one being presented by Jon Gos. Jon’s a developer that lives in Uganda and runs Appfrica ( — and he’s currently working on, “a Django based micro-messaging service for the QuestionBox Project, a group that uses cell phones to offer the internet for people in the developing world who are ‘off the grid’.”good stuff….hope to see you there. ;-)ejn

    1. fredwilson

      I believe my partner will be there but I will not

  4. fakedjs

    These numbers tell a story, the world is getting flatter. – at least the digital divide. Thanks for sharing.

  5. hash

    Fred, people who don’t get around Africa don’t realize the breadth of penetration of mobile phones. More importantly than that though is they don’t understand how Africans are really using them.Here’s an interesting example… Yahoo, for the last 10-12 years has had a complete monopoly on the email boxes of East Africans. However, they have paid no attention to that region. Africans still need email for business and some communications, but they don’t use it for messaging, that’s what their mobile phone is for. Yahoo is missing out on two opportunities for penetration in this market; they’re losing email market share to Google at an alarming rate, and they’re not even in the mobile chat game which is an even bigger potential market (and loss).

  6. kidmercury

    the US is in an accelerating decline, but web usage will increase globally in light of how inexpensive it is, and how much cheaper it’s becoming. IMO the US will be a great place to build startups that cost nothing, while originating in europe and asia will be better for capital intensive stuff.

    1. fredwilson

      I am tempted to take the bait, but I don’t have the time right now for anextensive discussion of the future of the US


    Thanks for thinking globally these days friend. Although there are plenty of great start-ups coming out of the U.S., I’m not sure how many can truly be disruptive. There are so many ties to big media, and the litigious nature of *things* seems to dampen real progress. I’m not saying that great things can’t happen, but I think the likelihood is growing that the next big things will come from the rest of the world. Just as “the facebook generation” doesn’t know life without the internet, there are millions that don’t know life with land lines, ma bell, and must see tv. Simply put, we’re far behind in mobile mindset and will likely suffer from wander lust for years to come.

  8. pedalpete

    Hey Fred, by the sounds of things, your trip to Europe has refreshed your energy toward web-based start-ups. I’d be keen to hear a follow-up to your am i bored with Web 2.0 post.Something i’ve noticed with my last two startups is that getting covered on decent blogs in the US is near impossible, and at startupcamp(?) Michael Arrington mentioned that he would love to go back to covering new startups again. Seems there are a few blogs in Europe which are really on the ball with whats happening in the start-up world. they are reporting like TC & Mashable did years ago.Maybe it’s because I try to cater to a world-wide audience with HearWhere (live music search) that I seem to get covered by European blogs, without my contacting them at all, but I suspect it has more to do with the start-up climate.If that is the case, maybe these other regions will see the Web based business growth that North America saw over the past few years.It would be great to somehow see a comparison of the growth of internet users in each region matches up to the growth of VC funding (no. of deals AND $$), and the general number of startups in each region. Will Africa’s growth in consumer usage be matched by a number of startups coming out of the region? or will they be served by North American and European startups?

    1. fredwilson

      I started going in that direction with my post this morning coincidentally

    2. gregorylent

      long term, i would think evenly dispersed around the globe, that is what the internet does … innovation as a concept is right up there with the concept of individual self-fulfillment as a global meme which is running like a wave just in front of global connectivity.