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Five Highlights From Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends Report


By Cathleen Chaykowski for Forbes

At 213 slides, Mary Meeker’s anticipated annual “Internet Trends” report was a gold mine of data on everything from debt-to-GDP ratios by country to U.S. Internet advertising growth.

The Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers general partner unveiled her report on Wednesday at tech blog Recode’s Code Conference in Dana Point, Calif. While you can read the entire deck here, below are five trends from Meeker’s report that we found especially notable.

1.Slowing global Internet growth: Global Internet user growth was flat from 2014 to 2015 at 9% year-over-year, and down from more than 15% in 2009. Why? Meeker said it’s harder to acquire new Internet users globally now that such a high portion of people in developed countries are already online. Internet users in less developed countries are more challenging to gain because of the high cost of smartphones relative to people’s incomes. The cost of a smartphone, for example, is 15% of per capita income in Vietnam and 10% in Nigeria and India, a McKinsey study found. The notable growth anomaly is India, where Internet growth accelerated by 7%. This boost helped India surpass the U.S. to become the second largest user market, after China. The growth of global smartphone users is also slowing.

2.“Easy” economic growth is over: Global economic growth in six of the last eight years is below the 20-year average of 3.8% (from 1996 through 2015). Meeker says the cause is the decline of five of the biggest growth drivers of the past two decades: Slowing connectivity growth (Internet users have reached 3 billion, up from 35 million in 1995), falling GDP growth in emerging countries, rising government debt, plummeting interest rates and a global population that is aging and growing more slowly. The opportunity? Meeker said the slowdown creates opportunities for companies that create efficiency, add jobs, lower prices and innovate. By region, China and emerging Asia made up 63% of total real GDP growth and America, Europe and Japan together made up 29% of GDP growth.

3.The era of the image: Images are growing in importance and use, while text, and specifically textual search, are fading. Meeker said in five years, at least 50% of searches will be made through images or speech. The rise of images has a lot to do with users’ increasing use of smartphones for storytelling, sharing, messaging and creative expression. Advertising will naturally continue to be built into visual experiences through methods such as user-applied filters. Meeker says Generation Z (people age 1 to 20) will be known for their use of images. Video is becoming increasingly social (think live sports events.) And among social network users now, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram as the leading platforms for engaging millennials.

4.Messaging as the new mobile home screen: Over time, messaging apps could overtake the home screen on mobile devices. This is believable given that 80% of users’ mobile time is spent in three apps, and the average global mobile user accesses just 12 apps daily. The most commonly used apps in 2016 globally are Facebook, WhatsApp and Chrome. Messaging will shift from being simple social interactions to increasingly expressive over time and will include more and more business-related interactions. Meeker lists WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat as the current messaging leaders.

5.Rise of voice interfaces: Meeker said voice should become the most efficient form of computing input, largely because it is hands and vision-free. Voice lends itself to an “always on” way of life. Humans can speak 150 words per minute, for instance, but can type only 40 words per minute. The conversational aspect of the medium lends itself to personalized experiences with computers understanding context from previous questions the user has asked and the user’s location. While many voice recognition tools can be frustrating to use now, Meeker said when speech recognition reaches 99% accuracy, people will go from barely using the tool to using it all the time. Speech recognition accuracy rose from about 90% in 2016 from about 70% in 2010. And the use of voice has been risen noticeably. Google voice search queries, for example, are up 35 times since 2008. Sales of voice-based devices such as Amazon Echo could be just about to take off, compared to more text-dominated devices such as the iPhone, whose sales peaked in 2015.

First appeared at Forbes

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