Global Internet Traffic Trends

Despite the Internet being a global network, the US has traditionally dominated. This is in part due to the prevalence of American web surfers. However, the US market has become saturated. Developing nations are spawning the next generation of web surfers, where a combination of improved urban economy and falling telecommunication costs has made internet cafes on every corner and even connections at home possible. This fundamental shift in demographics is dramatically altering the landscape of the Internet.

The internet is vast, and it is simply not possible to examine every web site. However, the most popular web sites can be used to take a pulse. Data was obtained from Alexa.com, an excellent resource for web traffic data and analytics. Thanks to Julie Henkens and Greg Orelind, I was able to investigate traffic trends for the 500 most-visited web sites from July 2004 to January 2007.

Results

The Internet is still dominated by the United States, followed by Asia and Western Europe. However, their grip is beginning to loosen as the rest of world gets connected at an unprecedented rate. Countries that have never been able to place a website in the top 500 are now pushing dozens of established websites out of this prestigious list. This trend is both recent (within the last two years) and accelerating. Interestingly, Asia is seeing its presence eroded the fastest, especially China. Without Germany, Western Europe is stagnant, and US domains appear to be on a gradual but constant decline. The big winners are Eastern Europe (boasting a 500% increase in the last year alone), South America and a eclectic assortment of international domains.

It should be noted that these trends are based on the rank of top the 500 most visited websites, which has some limitations. While providing a good snapshot of web activity, the data does not necessarily scale to the entire web. Also, only domains extensions (TLDs) are used to identity national origin, which excludes many international .com, .net, and .org websites from being categorized correctly. However, it does provide a rough measure of how connected a country is. Generally, the the most popular cross-section of websites (e.g. search engines, news sources) have localized TLDs. Additionally, this analysis is only looking at rank movement and not web traffic. This was purposeful. Web dominance is an effect of top sites jostling - these are the big players that can exert the most political and social influence. The pure number of websites is less interesting, as it is more of an effect of the economy (i.e. when money is flowing, people setup websites for personal and small business use). Additionally, indications are that traffic is growing across the board. Thus, the trends noted here are most likely from new countries growing faster than old players.

Number of websites in the top 500 most visited websites
(July 2004 to January 2007)


July 2004
January 2007
% Change
US Domains
378
325
-14%
Western Europe
21
26
+24%
Asia
81
46
-43%
Eastern Europe
0
24
>1000%
South & Latin America
5
11
120%

Number of websites in the top 500 most visited websites
(January 2006 - January 2007)


January 2006
January 2007
% Change
US Domains
358
325
-9%
Western Europe
31
26
-16%
Asia
63
46
-27%
Eastern Europe
4
24
500%
South & Latin America
7
11
57%



The 20 most visited top-level domains from July 2004 to January 2007 (decreasing order)


1 - com (Commercial, US)
2 - net (Network, US)
3 - jp (Japan)
4 - cn (China)
5 - org (Organization, US)
6 - hk (Hong Kong)
7 - de (Germany)
8 - uk (United Kingdom)
9 - tw (Taiwan)
10 - br (Brazil)
11 - fr (France)
12 - il (Israel)
13 - it (Italy)
14 - kr (Korea)
15 - se (Sweden)
16 - es (Spain)
17 - ca (Canada)
18 - au (Australia)
19 - ru (Russia)
20 - tr (Turkey)

Big Picture

Rank Movement of Small International Domains - The rest of the world enters front and center stage.

Analysis by Geographic Area

Rank Movement of Com, Net, Org, Gov, and US Domains - The death of .net, the rise of .org, and the madness of .com.

Rank Movement of Top Asian Domains - Despite population and technology lead, Asia sees strong decline in web presence.

Rank Movement of Top Western European Domains - Western European web presence is on the decline.

Rank Movement of Top Eastern European Domains - Eastern Europe joins the internet revolution, in force.

Rank Movement of Top South and Latin American Domains - South and Latin America slowly gaining momentum.

Rank Movement of Miscellaneous Top International Domains - Mixed results for smaller developed nations.

© Chris Harrison