Social Media And The Scale Of The Internet

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A Brief History

Nowadays, it seems that the Internet is constantly expanding and evolving. We are used to Google, which sees five million searches daily, and WhatsApp, with fifty million active users each day, but the Internet infiltrates our lives much further than that.  It is unrecognisable from the early days of the Internet, Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web, and even the social networking platforms of the early 2000s. The statistics show just how vital the Internet is to our lives, and how much of our lives we end up living through it. As well as the likes of Google and WhatsApp, one million Americans use Apple’s virtual assistant Siri daily, and as people continue to shun traditional television-viewing methods, Netflix’s revenue is around $5 million per day.

Digging Deeper

Thus, it’s no surprise that the use of social media is now so extensive. In one month, Android and Apple see 110 million and eighteen million sales of smartphones respectively. According to the Office for National Statistics, 78% of UK adults use smartphones to access the internet – it has become the most popular device for doing so.  Social media has adapted to smartphones almost seamlessly, with Facebook having the third-highest amount of Internet traffic in the UK, with Twitter (10th) and Instagram (13th) also near the top of the list, among the likes of Google, Amazon and Wikipedia. As more and more people take to their phones, betting and casino companies alike have designed their sites in a way that suits these devices, offering faster loading games, easy to use apps that users can place bets on and marketing their bonuses through major social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Betting sites like Findbettingsites offer mobile users and easy to way to compare signup bonuses and bookmakers apps, and have worked on the largest social media platforms to build their brand and reach.

The combination of smartphones being ubiquitous and their compatibility with social media has clearly contributed to its rise, as the Internet continues to grow. No longer do people have to sit at the computer and load up Internet Explorer, it’s as simple as going into your pocket and pressing a couple of buttons to produce social media platforms in the shape of apps. A Guardian article from 2014 indicates that, at the time, apps were more popular than websites – and the trend is likely to have increased in the years since. Apps have changed the way in which we use social media and the Internet.

We’re constantly online, and the ability to express our every thought on social media is a large contributing factor. There’s so much that uses the Internet outside of conventional web browsing that almost goes unnoticed in daily life. The ‘Internet of Things’, the term describing the connection of everyday devices to the Internet, is an example of this – smart meters are now commonplace. Gradually, as a culture, we’ve become used to never being offline, and the usage statistics reflect that.

In a month, the revenue from smart toys is around $408 million, while the monthly sales of the PlayStation 4 amounts to roughly $2 million. Over 23,000 robots are sold, as well as over 250,000 virtual reality headsets. These are some staggering figures that lay out plainly the increasing possibilities that the Internet can provide. Alongside the more conventional uses of the Internet, such as Google and social media, these newer ways in which we can utilise the Internet show why it is so prevalent.

Of course, as the Internet continues to develop, different social media platforms can fall by the wayside, failing to adapt to the latest technological trends. Even Facebook, long the most popular social media site in the English-speaking world, reported a first ever decline in European users in July 2018. Although social media remains extremely popular, with two million active users of Facebook Messenger alone every hour, as the Internet diversifies there are so many other things that it can be used for.

What will we see in the future? Facebook is starting to decline, albeit slowly. The ill-fated Google+ social network closed down earlier this year, while Snapchat lost three million daily users following a redesign of their platform in 2018. It is not the death knell for these applications by any means, but surely, they’ll require some cutting-edge revamps as we approach the end of the 2010s. As the Internet grows, it seems increasingly that many of the most popular sites and platforms are owned by the same groups. Facebook, Inc. is not solely facebook.com. By obtaining WhatsApp and Instagram, they have a much stronger foothold in the social media and communication markets – if Facebook itself continues its current trajectory, the company will still have a strong presence, as its other assets have been going from strength to strength. Last year, a report from the Reuters Institute showed that people had begun to trade Facebook for WhatsApp when sharing and discussing news and politics. Diversification in this way is proving an antidote to the resolute onward march of the Internet, and is more than likely to be a precursor to any future developments in the social media sphere.

We can also look at gaming when considering how the Internet may continue to evolve. The gaming platform Steam has been a revelation over the last few years, monopolising the market space for PC gaming. It’s a far cry from the days of playing Solitaire on Windows XP without an Internet connection. Every day, Steam sees thirteen million users apiece playing Battlegrounds and Dota 2. Social media has long provided a platform for the more causal gamer, Facebook offering the likes of Scrabble, Words with Friends and the virtual world game YoWorld (known as Yoville before 2014) and this may be one of the reasons for Facebook’s longevity.

Facebook in particular might be on the decline, but it has enjoyed a remarkable lifespan. As the Internet has evolved we’ve seen Friends Reunited, Bebo and Myspace die off one after the other due to their failure to move with the times. And yet, fifteen years after its founding, Facebook is still wildly popular, with Facebook Messenger’s two million active hourly users. The scale and landscape of the Internet have changed strongly over the time that Facebook – and Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram et al. – have been in existence, particularly in terms of what consumers use the Internet for. E-commerce has never been more popular, with Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos the richest man in the world, and the company’s market value reaching over £1 trillion in 2018.

Question for students (and subscribers): What major trends do you notice occurring with the Internet?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

McCullough, Brian.  How the Internet Happened: From Netscape to the iPhone.  Liveright, 2018.

The featured image in this article, an image by stux, is licensed under the Pixabay License.

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Abdul Alhazred

“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked. "Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad." "How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn’t have come here.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland