Almost a quarter of the world's population -- roughly 1.4 billion people -- will use the Internet regularly in 2008. This number is expected to surpass 1.9 billion unique users, or 30 per cent of the world's population, in 2012, according to IDC's Digital Marketplace Model and Forecast.
"The Internet will have added its second billion users over a span of about eight years, a testament to both its universal appeal and its availability", said John Gantz, chief research officer at IDC. "In this time, the Internet has also become more deeply integrated into the fabric of many users' personal and professional lives, enabling them to work, play, and socialise anytime from anywhere. These trends will accelerate as the number of mobile users continues to soar and the Internet becomes truly ubiquitous."
While the PC is currently the dominant means of gaining access to the Internet, IDC expects the number of mobile devices accessing the Internet will surpass the number of online PCs by 2012. Once on the Internet, users will continue to spend time on Web 1.0 activities like searching, shopping, and sending e mail. But Web 2.0 activities, such as watching user-generated videos, posting blogs, and participating in social networks, are quickly capturing the attention and time online of more and more Internet users. The latter will create new opportunities and challenges for online advertisers seeking to monetise the Internet experience.
Other findings from IDC's Digital Marketplace Model and Forecast were:
Users will access the Internet through more than 1.5 billion devices worldwide in 2008, including PCs, mobile phones, and online video game consoles. By 2012, the number of devices accessing the Internet will double to more than three billion, half of which will be mobile devices.
China passed the US in 2007 to become the country with the largest number of Internet users. China's online population is forecast to grow from 275 million users in 2008 to 375 million users in 2012.
Nearly half of all Internet users will make online purchases in 2008. By 2012, there will be more than one billion online buyers worldwide making business-to-consumer (B2C) transactions worth $US1.2 trillion. B2B e-commerce will be 10 times larger, totalling $US12.4 trillion worldwide in 2012.
Roughly 40 per cent of all Internet users worldwide currently have mobile Internet access. The number of mobile Internet users will reach 546 million in 2008, almost twice as many as in 2006, and is forecast to surpass 1.5 billion worldwide in 2012.
Len Rust is publisher of The Rust Report