What are we doing online? Top findings from an exhaustive study of the Internet

  • According to a recent report on the biggest trends in technology and the Internet, tech companies such as Apple now run the two most lucrative brick-and-mortar stores.

    According to a recent report on the biggest trends in technology and the Internet, tech companies such as Apple now run the two most lucrative brick-and-mortar stores. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

Posted6/4/2016 7:18 AM

Mary Meeker, a venture capitalist at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, released her 21st annual report on the biggest trends in technology and the Internet on Wednesday. The report covers a wide swath of issues, from slowing smartphone sales to photo sharing and online advertising.

Here's a quick take on some of the most interesting findings.


1. Mobile ads will grow by tens of billions of dollars in the coming years -- and will mostly line the pockets of Facebook and Google.

The two Silicon Valley giants account for 76 percent of all U.S. Internet advertising. Google's share of the pie is far larger, but Facebook is growing more rapidly. Meeker sees mobile advertising growing another $22 billion in the United States because the time consumers spend on mobile devices -- 25 percent -- is more than double the share of ad dollars the platform receives. However, a major concern is the 420 million smartphone users who utilize ad-blocking technology.

2. Tech companies now run the two most lucrative brick-and-mortar stores.

Diamonds are incredibly expensive, so Tiffany & Co. has always had one of the highest sales per square foot of retail space. But Apple surpassed it in recent years on the strength of its huge iPhone business. Now another tech company -- Warby Parker, which sells eyeglasses -- has also passed Tiffany & Co. Warby Parker began selling eyewear online, but now has 31 locations.

3. The growth of photo sharing is stunning.

More than three billion photos are shared everyday on Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp. This number has more than doubled in the last two years. The report also highlighted the rapid rise of Snapchat in just a few years. And while there are plenty of other platforms for photo-sharing, they are all controlled by Facebook.

4. Millennials don't want to talk on the phone.

You might as well throw out that landline now.

Individuals born from 1981 through 1999 would rather hear from a business via social media, digital messaging or an app. Their least popular option is the telephone, with only 12 percent saying they preferred that option.

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That's a stark contrast to Generation X and especially Baby Boomers and the so-called "Silent Generation," which was born before 1945. Those groups prefer the phone by far.

5. A big warning for Apple -- smartphone growth is definitely plateauing.

Smartphone users are still growing around the world. In 2007 only 34 percent of smartphone users worldwide were in Asia-Pacific. Now its share is 52 percent.

But in North America and Europe, the biggest gains appear to be in the past. This has huge implications for Apple, which leans on the iPhone for the majority of its profits.

6. Consumer spend almost as much time commuting as on Facebook.

Meeker suggests that the arrival of autonomous vehicles could free up a significant amount of time for consumers, creating a new entertainment opportunity for businesses.


But where will people spend their time? If this chart is any measure, Facebook could be a big winner. People are already spending more time on the social network than behind the wheel. Smartphone users in the U.S. and globally spend 80 percent of their time using only three apps.

In general, in looking through this report, you can see the dominance of Facebook's properties, whether it's their messaging apps or the flagship social network. There is little doubt we are living in the age of Facebook right now.

One final note from this report -- despite the launch of Apple Music and others in the music space, Spotify is still holding its ground, at least in terms of user engagement.

Of course, you can be on Facebook while listening to Spotify at the same time. Either way, both companies are probably pretty happy with how people are spending their time.

7. We're creating and sharing more videos online.

Consumers are increasingly sharing videos via platforms such as Facebook and Snapchat. In the most remarkable recent example a video of Candace Payne in a Chewbacca mask was viewed more than 153 million times. And now advertisers are looking for ways to co-opt these videos to reach potential customers. Snapchat offers sponsored video filters, such as Taco Bell's Cinco de Mayo Lens and Gatorade's Super Bowl Lens.

8. There are more ways than ever to express ourselves via smartphones.

Messaging is evolving from simple conversations to rich interactions complete with GIFs, videos, stickers and filters. While millennials communicate with text, today's teens communicate with images.

9. Why type when you can talk to your smartphone?

Meeker notes the massive uptick in Internet searches for apparent voice commands such as "call mom" and "navigate home." These commands have grown more than 35 times since 2008, according to Google Trends. Baidu, the Chinese Internet search giant, has seen a rapid increase in vocal queries. Its chief scientist Andrew Ng has predicted that in 2019 50 percent of Web searches will be voice or image activated.

Other voice-related offerings are growing too, such as Amazon's Echo, a wireless speaker that accounts for about 25 percent of the U.S. speaker market, according to 1010data Meeker cites. Google and Apple are reportedly building competing devices that also rely on voice activation.

Disclosure: Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.

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