At first I was just going to take some highlights from Mary Meeker’s 2019 Internet Trends report. But I quickly got carried away. Below you’ll find a very detailed summary of her 333-slide presentation.
This year’s report includes a wide range of topics, including:
- Mobile phone usage
- Economic trends
- Online education
- Healthcare trends
- A dash of political commentary
And much, much more.
For a big-picture thinker and futurist such as myself, the Meeker report is right up my alley.
Below, you’ll find practically every topic and trend she covered, with a lot of statistics to boot.
Let’s get started.
Summary of Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report, 2019 Edition
These highlights follow the same order as the original presentation:
The customer experience (CX) drives business success in the digital age.
Spotify and Zoom are used as anecdotal examples to demonstrate this trend – both have experienced massive growth thanks to their emphasis on CX.
As the CFO of Spotify says in the report:
A better user experience produces by far the most viral effect & impact when investing in growth. Engagement drives conversion from free consumption to paid subscription.
Internet usage statistics are growing in many areas – in terms of global penetration, user numbers, and usage statistics.
More than half of the world’s population uses the internet … a lot.
Digital media consumption averages 6.3 hours per day.
And, as in years past, many people use multiple devices simultaneously (such as messaging on a mobile phone while watching TV).
Mobile usage overtook TV time in 2018, at more than 3 hours per person per day. Globally, users spend the most time on the apps Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, and WeChat, respectively. YouTube and Instagram are the biggest growers.
Digital video – such as YouTube – is gradually gaining more face time, up to 28% in 2018, versus 4% in 2010.
Innovation and new technology adoption continue to accelerate.
In the USA, other growth areas include:
- Podcast listeners – up to 70 million monthly active users from 22 million in 2008
- Wearable users – up to 52 million from 25 million in 2014 – a 2X increase
- On-demand products and services also doubled, from 25 million consumers in 2016 to 56 million in 2018
Outside the USA, innovation is driving business growth in a wide variety of sectors.
Here are examples from the fulfillment industry:
- One Chinese app successfully connects consumers with local merchants, bringing on 6 million local businesses and matching them with appropriate customers
- Another connects manufacturers to consumer preferences, helping upstream providers deliver more relevant products and services, with 443 million buyers currently on board, a 2X increase in 5 quarters
- Digital delivery platform Rappi, in Latin America, has doubled its number of orders in four months
- Tokopedia, in Indonesia, streamlines delivery between sellers and buyers on different islands, enabling same- or next-day delivery across 17 islands – this platform has 6 million merchants and has doubled in growth over the past year
- India’s Reliance Jio is a hybrid online-to-offline commerce platform, connecting customers and merchants in Reliance Retail locations – its user base has doubled to 307 million subscribers in the past year
However, fulfillment is just the beginning.
Another area that is experiencing two-fold growth in recent years is finance.
China’s Alipay, a suite of commerce and payment platforms, has 1 billion users, a 2X increase in user numbers over 2 years.
Similar trends are cropping up across the world: digital payments and banking platforms are garnering multiple millions of users in South Korea, Europe, Brazil, Latin America, and more.
Images are taking over the internet.
To hammer this home, the report showed four areas that are growing exponentially:
- Active number of smartphones
- Smartphone processing power and storage
- Cellular data traffic
- Number of WiFi networks
Each of these has grown massively over the past several years, along with image creation: the number of photos taken and shared has also doubled in recent years.
We are also seeing a variety of technologies evolve with this trend:
- Image-driven commerce, via Instagram and Pinterest
- Text and image recognition transforms into real-time text translation (as was demonstrated during Google’s 2019 I/O Keynote)
- Edited images – such as those created in augmented reality filters – are growing more common
Trends such as these remind me of Zuckerberg’s future predictions.
Years ago he predicted the dominance of image sharing.
And he was right about that, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s right about some of his wackier predictions.
Online collaboration and interaction are becoming the norm.
Interactive gaming players is up 6% from the previous year, to 2.4 billion.
Innovation in online gaming is also rising – the number of regular updates to Fortnite is cited as an example.
The number of regular updates to this game has increased sharply, along with the number of users – nearly a 2X increase over the past two years, to around 250 million users.
Given the social elements of online gaming, the question is raised: are these shared environments the new social networks?
Cloud deployment and digital payments enable today’s most common pricing model, freemium.
The freemium business model – currently applied in gaming, consumer, and enterprise software – is made possible thanks to cloud computing.
As with the other trends in this report, cloud services have exploded by orders of magnitude in the past few years.
Since 2015, Amazon Web Services (AWS), has topped $7 billion in global revenue … and it controls more market share than its two major competitors combined, Google and Microsoft.
The way we use data is transforming … and data is transforming the way we work.
Before 1995, data was collected and analyzed by people.
Then businesses began using digital data to improve customer experiences.
In the 2000s, though, successful organizations use “data plumbing tools” to manage connections and collect and optimize data.
Numerous examples are given of companies that use data to:
- Understand customers and improve business processes
- Improve products
- Enhance customer decision-making
- Manage communications
Among other things.
Humans are just at the tip of the data-driven revolution, but we may not be able to keep up with the changes.
IDC expects the data that we collect, create, or replicate to more than double by 2025.
To adapt to this tsunami of data, we will need to develop “skills that enable faster learning & quicker iteration & experimentation.”
Even then, the technology curve will still move faster than our ability to cope.
IDC’s quoted white paper concludes that ultimately:
Traditional paradigms will be redefined (like vehicle ownership or white goods ownership) & ethical, moral & societal norms will be challenged…
Internet, like the Force, has a light side and a dark side.
Today, 26% of adults are “always online” and 63% are trying to limit personal smartphone use.
Daily social media use grew by only 1%, a 5% drop from last year.
However, it’s still a major time sink, averaging nearly 2.4 hours per day.
Despite recent media coverage of privacy concerns, people are less concerned about privacy than they were 5 years ago: 52% versus 64%.
Algorithms amplify everything that goes into them, from social behavior to misinformation.
They can amplify:
- Users’ existing patterns
- Bad behavior online
To combat this, platforms such as Facebook and YouTube are removing content that doesn’t meet their guidelines.
Think the internet is free? Think again – the internet is only as free as your home country.
The internet itself is governed by local governments – and not all governments treat the internet equally.
According to the 2018 Freedom on the Net report, 55% of global internet users live in restrictive countries, where “political, social, or religious content is censored / blocked.”
On a spectrum, internet regulation was lowest in the USA and highest in China.
The Internet Trends report claims that an open internet can “benefit all constituents,” including consumers, businesses, and regulators.
Examples are given that illustrate how an open internet can be messy, but effective for increasing transparency, amplifying the good, and minimizing the bad.
On the other hand, a more regulated internet could favor state control.
Cyber attacks are becoming more sophisticated and more serious.
We are seeing increases in:
- State-sponsored attacks – Weaponization of the internet undermines trust and turns the internet itself into a battlefield
- Attacks on large-scale data providers – The amount of sensitive data exposed in breaches in 2018 more than doubled from the previous year
- Extortion cases – Despite the dangers, under-utilization of security measures (such as two-factor authentication) limits their effectiveness
The section finishes with a quote that says state-sponsored attacks are…
Emblematic of a new style of competition … below the threshold of outright war but above that of purely peacetime behavior.
Internet-enabled services are fueling new opportunities and efficiencies.
According to a quote from the founder of DoorDash, around 5% of the USA’s $800 billion restaurant business is delivered … but we’re just getting started.
The on-demand economy is continuing to scale rapidly:
- On-demand consumers doubled between 2016 and 2018, going from 25 million to 56 million
- On-demand platform workers rose from 2.4 million to 6.6 million between 2015 and 2018
- Remote work, enabled by online collaboration tools, is also becoming more common – 5% of USA’s workers are remote, versus 3% in 2000
For employees, there are plenty of benefits to remote working, including flexible work hours, the ability to travel, and spending more time with the family.
Online education offers a good alternative to rising education costs.
Undergraduate tuition costs have skyrocketed over the past few decades, as has the average size of student loan debt.
Perhaps this is contributing to the growth of online courses:
- More students are throwing online university classes into their mix – 67% of post-secondary students are offline-only, versus 74% in 2012
- More offline institutions are jumping onboard the online bandwagon, from the University of London to the University of Colorado Boulder
- Online education platforms have exploded, such as Coursera, Udemy, and Lambda School
Given the digital skills gap I mentioned in my article on job automation, it shouldn’t be surprising that some of the most popular courses on Coursera were related to IT.
In fact, around 80% of Coursera’s revenue comes from business, IT, and data science courses.
However, post-secondary students aren’t the only audience for these online education technologies.
Another list of education apps targeted kids:
- Remind is a communication tool for parents, teachers, and students
- VIPKid, in China, offers remote language instruction to kids
- Byju provides video-based classes for kids aged 9-17 in India
To name a few.
Healthcare is digitizing, decreasing costs and increasing efficiency.
Consumers are adopting digital health tools, such as video telemedicine and wearables.
On the healthcare provider side, we are seeing growth in a number of other places – the majority of providers, for instance, use electronic health records.
Other areas being impacted by healthcare include:
- Apps that offer “on-demand urgent care,” enabling patients to see doctors much more quickly
- Telehealth and remote medical care
- Prescription drug delivery
- Health insurance plan management
- AI assistants for doctors and nurses
- Medication management
The section concluded with a slide showing that the USA led the global pack when it came to healthcare expenditure.
China continues to innovate, and there is still room to grow.
Though year-over-year cellular adoption growth is gradually slowing, cellular data use has skyrocketed. In China, this climb is largely due to massive demand for short-form video.
Over the past four years, mobile short term video has appeared from thin air, now consuming an average of several hours per month per user.
A major source of innovation in China is gaming and gamification:
- WeChat Jump Jump spawned an entire ecosystem of apps, from ecommerce to travel booking
- Ant Forest gamifies tasks that reduce carbon emissions
- Pinduoduo socializes shopping and gamifies discounts
- Other apps gamify retail for employees, turning KPIs into competition targets
Chat programs are also mutating, turning from mere messaging apps into catch-all apps that can act as:
- Chat programs
- Music apps
- Payment processors
- Game platforms
In short, these apps are becoming “super apps” that throw countless services under a single hood, including the kitchen sink.
This, by the way, contrasts sharply with the Western strategy of creating “app constellations” that take up an entire user’s home screen.
And, just as these apps are fusing dozens of functions in a single platform, China is also merging online and offline experiences in:
- Government services access
Of course, these are just the trends mentioned in Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report.
As we’ve seen from other sources, such as the AI Superpowers book, China is making great strides in plenty of other tech frontiers.
The Meeker report is an excellent snapshot into the state of the internet, digital technology, and the global economy.
I love macro trends, which is why I love her annual presentation.
Deep, big-picture research like this offers insights into the trends that will bridge the gap between today’s digital economy and the science fiction world of tomorrow.
Though AR, VR, and AI may seem like a world away, just look at how quickly mobile phones and blockchain rampaged through the economy.
It’s a good idea to keep a close eye on large-scale trends like these, because they always impact businesses at the local level.