The Changing Demographics of The Internet Will Mold It

It’s a healthy exercise to think about the way people who aren’t like me experience things differently than I do (even if the raw material of those things are the same).

In August I wrote about how much of the world’s access to the Internet looks different from the typical American’s connection to the internet1:

Our own experiences always influence our view of things. As a result we tend to think about accessing the internet as common when that isn’t necessarily the case. For example, over 60% of phones in the world are ‘dumb phones,’ or ‘feature phones.’ Still, those users can connect to services like Facebook and Twitter via a text-only interface.

In that same vein, our view of things can tint how we perceive our influence on those things. A recent article in Quartz offers a fascinating look at how a massive new group of Internet users coming online in India will actually shape what the web looks like2.

Here’s an excerpt:

Even more striking than the growth through this year is the growth to come. According to the World Bank’s numbers for 2013, 84.2% of Americans are online. That’s 268.3 million people. In India, 186.7 million people were online as of last year—but that’s only 15.1% of the population. McKinsey forecasts that India will have between 330 million and 370 million users by 2015 (versus 279 million in the US). Anandan reckons that by 2018, there will be half a billion Indians online.

Internet adoption in India is more than just a matter of numbers. It also will influence how the web develops, especially on mobile. Already, user experiences in the developing world have led to technical changes in Facebook’s mobile app. But that only scratches the surface. Indians use services like Facebook in fundamentally different ways, friending all and sundry and amassing oddly-shaped networks that do not conform to Facebook’s data scientists’ ideas of what networks tell us about people.

It will be truly intriguing to watch the blending of cultures on the web shape products and experiences.


1. You can read my post about how many people in the world access the internet here.2. You can read the original article about the massive number of Indians gaining access to the Internet on Quartz’s website.

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