Key Internet Trends That Shaped 2017

Key Internet Trends That Shaped 2017


2017 marks the point at which half of humanity became connected to the web. With 10% growth in web users over the prior 12 months, at least 50% of the world population is now thought to be online. Internet trends aren’t minority fads; they are now affecting significant blocks of humanity.

People are now as likely to be online as they are to live in an urban area. More than a third of humankind are now social media users, following a period of sustained year-on-year growth of around 8%. 2.7bn people use social media or 37% of humanity. Most of these access their accounts via mobile.

In fact, mobile is gaining a sizeable lead over other internet-accessible devices. With 30% growth in mobile usage over the last year, half the world’s web browsing is now via mobile. However, this varies from country to country – over 80% of Nigerian web visits come via mobile, while in the UK, it’s only 34%. The share of laptop and mobile device use is in decline by comparison.

Social is influential

Search is still the world’s key tool for web discovery, but in 2017 social emerged as a major force for discovery. Younger users are particularly inclined to use social as a vehicle to discover and research new products.

According to Mary Meeker’s respected annual internet trend report for Kleiner Perkins, 26% of Americans who click on a Facebook ad go on to buy something.

The frustrating trend of ‘dark social’ is on the rise. With many marketers using web analytics tools that can’t adequately track social media, there’s a lot of traffic going untracked.

This means businesses are consistently underestimating the value of social to their business. And with social commerce starting to gain traction in some markets (particularly in Asia), it’s more important than ever to grasp social analytics properly.

Everyone’s got a smartphone

Sales are slowing, indicating more people have smartphones now – or they are holding onto their existing handsets longer. We’re all spending longer online using our phones too. No wonder then, that advertisers are increasingly targeting mobile users. Mobile ad revenue now surpasses that on desktop.

Smartphone mobile growth has been slowing down since 2010. This year, it will have reached its lowest rate of growth since before 2009.

In another key trend, we’re also spending longer on a smartphone than on other devices: 5 hours, compared to less than one in 2011.

We’re performing more searches on our phone than in any other year so far, and trends such as image search are starting to gain traction.

This feeds into another key trend for 2017 – advertisers are increasingly shifting spend towards mobile. In the US, online advertising spending is soon expected to surpass TV advertising spending. It’s already taking the lion’s share of digital ad spend, at 70%.

But there’s evidence of consumer backlash against ads. We know that many consumers are using ad blockers, particularly in the emerging markets of India, Indonesia and China.

Consumers seem to be responding well to formats such as skippable pre-roll, social click-to-play, and mobile app rewards; all ad formats where they regain some degree of control over the ads they are served.

Interactive games

The world of gaming has never stopped innovating and evolving. In recent years we’re seeing the trend of gaming coming out of the bedroom and into the global arena. 20,000 people watched the last League of Legends Finals live, with many millions more following the tournament online.

Sociable (and sometimes luxuriously appointed) e-sports cafes are emerging in China – a clear indication that gaming is no longer such a solitary, private pursuit.

There was 12% growth from 2016-17 in the interactive games and media arena. Worldwide, the market’s now worth over $100 billion.

It’s thought mobile gaming revenue may have increased faster than PC or console revenue. The next 2 years are likely to see virtual reality emerging as a strong and dominant trend, likely to be worth close to $30bn by 2020.

Gamification is not a new trend but in 2017 it’s become mainstream, informing the design of many consumer digital services. From personal health to finance apps, it’s a highly influential design trend.

But gamification is also being used for the design of education programmes from pilot training to surgery simulations for medics.

Gaming’s spreading out into other mediums, as players seek to watch what they play. There was a 40% growth year on year in the number of eSports viewers. Gaming is also a cradle for new ideas, which spread into other channels – concepts such as messaging, “leveling up” and live camera angles all started in the gaming medium.

The world of gaming is now increasingly being recognized as mainstream and highly influential. Although this isn’t a development that’s exclusive to 2017, it’s a trend worth paying attention to if you want to understand the forces shaping the future.

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