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21 January 2005

Internet Adoption - China

The China Internet Network Information Centre reports a 6-month 8% increase in the number of Internet users in China to 94 M by the end 2004 (via Reuters), with 37.6% more Broadband subscribers to 42.8 M.

Internet adoption in China has reached 7.2% of the population. This compares with a world average of 12.7% and neighbouring Hong Kong 51% (3.3 M Internet users) and Macao 46% (201 k Internet users).

20 January 2005

A day in the life of a member of Cyworld

Jennifer, who lives and studies abroad, narrates her experience of Cyworld in a beautiful Ohmynews article.

At the beginning, Cyworld looked like an inexpensive way to stay in touch with friends and don't miss out on what's happening home, in South Korea. Jennifer used Cyworld to visit her friends' mini-hompies. Then traffic started to build up on her mini-hompy, and "to keep them coming" she added a personal profile and the diary, mini room, photo album, bulletin board and message board options. Like many, she was convinced that the flow of visitors depended on how rich her site was and on how decorated her mini room .

The mini room came with an empty room and a character figure called "mini me" representing the user. I could change its facial expression, body position, hair and its clothing. I used to spend hours playing with Barbie dolls during my childhood, and one would have thought I grew out of it. Wrong! Mini-me was my best friend.

From the mini-hompy, Jennifer met new people and with some of them established a form of kinship through diadic mutual consent.

I met many members of the cyholic gang. The list of my kin kept expanding and the hidden pressure started to reveal itself. I felt obligated to visit my kin often to maintain "kinship". Many of my so-called kin were people I barely knew....I felt compelled to prolong the phoney relationship because each user can find out whom out of your kin list did not visit you in the past month. Though this is intended to help people get along, it quickly becomes an unwelcome duty.

And gift was the engine of kinship

I was convinced that I was doing some good when giving someone a gift...This seems like an ideal way of maintaining kinship, but don't forget that acorns are needed to make this possible. Cyword displays the number of gifts received on each users' front page to motivate them to exchange gifts.

Jennifer developed an addiction to Cyworld: a single click on the name of any Cyworld user will hook her into Cyworld for hours.

I kept on committing the sin of saying "just one more" which turned out to be all night. It only takes a second to load someone else's page, but the time consumed in posting and reading the message board and checking out the album is substantial. When you see someone familiar or attractive in that home page, you simply click and skip over to that other person's home page and repeat the process.

And becoming a regular reader of one's friends and friends of friends mini-hompies made her into some kind of voyeur, but she wasn't alone

I found how serious the Cyworld phenomenon was when I discovered it was taking over reality. A person my friend introduced to me was the owner of a page I recalled from my friend's message board. Scary as it may sound. I knew exactly where the person was going to school and who he was friend with. I felt like a stalker but couldn't help but to ask, "You are friends with xxx, right?" What shocked me even more was his response. "You just graduated from xyz school in abc, right? I saw you in my friend yyy's Cyworld." 





How many people publish, read or contribute to blogs? 2.0

Yesterday, while I was updating a previous post on blog usages as new results had been published by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, I recalled an International Herald Tribune article I came across at the end of last year: Souped-up blog takes South Korea by storm; which takes blog usage into a completely new dimension. By the way, this article has been picked up by a number of blogs, but I don't think the significance of the phenomenon it decribes has been valued correctly.

According to the latest Pew survey on the topic, end of 2004 there were 8 M US blog publishers, corresponding to about 7% of Internet users in the U.S. At the same time, in South Korea, 11 M people, corresponding to about 30% of the Internet population or 25% of the total population, were publishing a blog on Cyworld, SK Communication's highly structured blogging environment.  The Cyworld form of blogging has reached 79% adoption among young people in their 20s and 30s (source SK Communication); and 90% adoption among young people in their 20s (source researcher KoreanClick).

When we think that unique identification is required to subscribe to Cyworld and that Cyworld is the largest, but not the unique, blog platform in South Korea, we get a sense of how widespread blogging is among South Koreans.

Cyworld adoption
Cyworld introduced its mini hompies service in 2001 and had 1 M members. Membership exploded when in late 2003 Freechal, the leader home page host, decide to charge for the service. Then Cyworld offered  a guarantee of free service for life, causing a massive switch. Cyworld was acquired by SK Communications and incorporated with Nate.com.

Cyworld in everyday language
Instead of exchanging phone number or e-mail addressed, people ask "do you Cy?". Mini hompies can also be accessed through mobile phones.

Cyworld special features

  • basic service is free
  • modular mini-hompies with templates, like a room, an open agenda, a note book where to stick pictures
  • personalization with digital decorations such as music, wallpapers, animated characters, banners, pieces of furniture, on sale
  • acorns, each worth 100 won equivalent to about 9 cents, to purchase the digital decorations. Acorns can be paid via credit card or cell phone account
  • popularity displays on the front page with fixe indicators for sexiness, fame, friendliness, karma, kindness, which increase as the number of visitors, gifts received and gifts made increase
  • wish boxes and gift shop pages where users indicate the decorations they would like to have for their friends and visitors to see and eventually offer them
  • social networking via visibility of who one's friends are and link to their mini-hompies, as well as private areas with limited access
  • people search function, to find any Cyworld user by entering the name, year of birth, gender, or the e-mail. 

 

 

How many people publish, read or contribute to blogs? 2.0

Yesterday, while I was updating a previous post on blog usages as new results had been published by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, I recalled an International Herald Tribune article I came across at the end of last year: Souped-up blog takes South Korea by storm; which takes blog usage into a completely new dimension. By the way, this article has been picked up by a number of blogs, but I don't think the significance of the phenomenon it decribes has been valued correctly.

According to the latest Pew survey on the topic, end of 2004 there were 8 M US blog publishers, corresponding to about 7% of Internet users in the U.S. At the same time, in South Korea, 11 M people, corresponding to about 30% of the Internet population or 25% of the total population, were publishing a blog on Cyworld, SK Communication's highly structured blogging environment.  The Cyworld form of blogging has reached 79% adoption among young people in their 20s and 30s (source SK Communication); and 90% adoption among young people in their 20s (source researcher KoreanClick).

When we think that unique identification is required to subscribe to Cyworld and that Cyworld is the largest, but not the unique, blog platform in South Korea, we get a sense of how widespread blogging is among South Koreans.

Among Cyworld's special features:

  • basic service is free
  • modular mini-hompies with templates, like a room, an open agenda, a note book where to stick pictures
  • personalization with digital decorations such as music, wallpapers, animated characters, banners, pieces of furniture, on sale
  • acorns, each worth 100 won equivalent to 10 cents, to purchase the digital decorations
  • wish boxes and gift shop pages where users indicate the decorations they would like to have for their friends and visitors to see and eventually offer them
  • social networking via visibility of who one's friends are and of their mini-hompies
  • private areas with limited access



Innovation in the gym: exercising and playing

Health warnings abound in the media that more and more children are overweight and don't exercise enough. To encourage children to become regulars of its Lifestyles fitness centres, at the end of 2004 Liverpool City Council (via Digital-Lifestyles.info) installed treadmills, rowing machines and cycles with games consoles. The innovation has been well received by both parents and children and children usage has increased 15% over the same period a year earlier.

Keen children are given an introduction session which runs between 4 - 5:30 daily and are then free to choose from a selection of 30 games supplied by the venue. Hurst (Operations manager of sport and recreation service) said they've made the decision to currently not let the children bring in their own games, so they have some control over the type of game being played. Once the game has been selected it has to be setup by the fitness instructor.

19 January 2005

Jeffrey Cole on the impact of Broadband access

This is an excerpt of Jeffrey Cole's presentation at the iMedia Summit in December 2004, entitled New Internet trends: changing media use, declining credibility and the rise of broadband. Jeffrey Cole describes the transformation in Internet use brought about when an always-on broadband connection becomes available at home.

Jeffrey Cole, now Director of the Center for the Digital Future at USC Annenberg School for Communication, is the founder of the World Internet Project: a longitudinal study, initiated four years ago, of the way Internet use is transforming the way we live in 20 countries. In the U.S., the project surveys a representative sample of 2,000 people every year to follow the evolution of their technological equipment, their habits, the activities they carry out online, their communication patterns and their media usage.

First trend we're going to look at is something that you can't say any more simply than this: Broadband changes evrything. First just a statistic about broadband - right now we're on the verge of the majority of homes becoming broadband homes. Last year about 46% of homes connected through broadband. Right about nowx we're crossing the line that the majority of homes connect through broadband.

I actually believe there's a bigger gap between dial-up use and broadband use that there is between non-use and dial-up use. That's how significant I think broadband is. Fascinatingly to us, four years ago when we started talking to consumers, we found that 40% of those who ordered broadband at home were not aware they were getting an always-on or a direct connection. They thought they were just getting a really fast dial-up: You connected the old way and then when you connected it just was really fast. And while they got used to the speed, they bought it for the speed, the speed was addictive and they got used to it immediately. But it was always on, so the direct connection changed their relationship to the Internet far more significantly than the speed did.

We find dial-up to be this disruptive technology. Well, broadband is a very integrative technology. And what I mean by that, when we say that dial-up is disruptive, the average dial-up user is on one, two to three times a day, with exceptions, for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. When they dial-up they usually go into some other part of the house, towards the back, into a den, into a bedroom, into an office. Of course there are exceptions. And generally, dial-up time is time spent away from the family, although they can be around them, and time spent away from television, although the television can be on if people do multitask from the beginning.

Dial-up users view dialing-up as a big deal. They frequently write down on the back of an envelope or a Post-It Note the things they want to do when they log-on. And if they log-off forgetting to do those things, they get irritated at themselves. Even though the act of dialing-up only takes about 30 seconds, they view it as a big deal, or as we in the scientific community call it, a "BFD".

On the other hand, broadband is a really integrative technology. The average broadband user at home is on 20, 30, 40 times a day, two to three minutes at a time, with lots of exceptions. And, when they go online, it doesn't displace other activities such as family conversation or television viewing. It occurs in between those activities. It fits into the rythms of the day. It isn't as likely to displace anything because they're only on for two minutes at a time, not 20 or 30 minutes of dial-up. It doesn't displace family conversation. Conversation occurs around the Internet time on broadband. 

Growing Internet adoption among over 55 - U.S.

In People aged 55 and up drive U.S. Web growth, Rob McGann argues that

since 2000 most new growth in Web adoption came from people aged 55 and up.

An International Demographics survey (a panel of 80 U.S. metropolitan markets corresponding to an overall population of 130 M) found in 2004 that 61.2% are regular Internet users, they were 54.9% in 2000. In the 55 to 64 age group, regular Internet users in 2004 correspond to 56.7%. They were 45.8% in 2000. A similar trend has emerged in the 65 to 74 age group where regular users are 35.9% vs. 26.2% in 2000.

Broadband adoption - Russia - 1.0

PointTopic provides a very interesting overview of the broadband market in Russia and of its specificities

the residential sector is dominated at present by the informal "Home Networks" which use Ethernet LANs to link up buildings, housing developments and sometimes whole neighbourhoods to "broadband" access (2 Mbps up to the buildings is considered the average by local observers). These operators account for some 75% residential users, or some 550,000 by end 2004, connected households throughout Russia. They are generally very low cost

Quotes a Russian consultant, the overview  puts the number of broadband users to about 3,5 M in 3rd quarter 2004 (a broadband user uses broadband at least once a week, over a connection of at least a theoretical speed of 200 Kbps). Most users are in the business sector, but demand in the residential sector is strong (e.g. in Moscow, subscriptions to MTU-Intel ADSL grew from 4k to 20k in the first eight months of 2004). Analysts estimate xDSL residential lines to be around 125k, of which 100k in Moscow. Over 2004 has taken place a significant price decrease: cheaper DSL tariffs have gone below $30.

DSL subscribers in 2004 - worldwide

DSL Forum and Point Topic data (presented in Global DSL soars 40 percent in first three quarters 2004) estimate the total number of DSL subscribers to be 85,3 M worlwide. A year earlier they were 54,6 M (+56% growth).

Whereas in the US cable modem subscribers outnumber DSL ones (over 19 M vs. 12,6 M), in the rest of the world DSL subscribers are about twice more numerous than cable modem ones. Very large differences in DSL adoption exist between regions:

EU, 26,5 M
Asia Pacific, 24 M
-----------------
North America, 15 M
South & South-East Asia, 14,6 M
-----------------
Latin America, 2,8 M
Other Europe, 1,2 M
Middle East & Africa, 860k

18 January 2005

How many people publish, read or contribute to blogs? 1.1

Last November, at the end of a review of research on blog usage in the US (creation, publication, readership, contribution) I proposed some estimates for blog adoption and usage in 2003 and early 2004:

  • between 2.5 M and 3.5 M active blog publishers, whose blogs are updated at least once a month
  • 300.000 and 400.000 very active publishers, those who write on their blog daily are between 300.000 and 400.000
  • between 6.4 and 17 M blog readers
  • 6 M contributors to blogs

Early in January, the Pew Internet & American Life Project published the results of a November 2004 survey - the state of blogging - which found a very steap increase in the number of blog publishers, readers and contributors:

  • 8 M blog publishers
  • 32 M blog readers
  • 14 M contributors (many blogs publishers, many young (18-29)

The demographic profile of blog publishers is confirmed: a majority of males (57%), nearly half under age 30; a large majority with a broadband Internet connection at home (70%); a large majority with 6 or more years of Internet experience; 42% live in households with an over $ 50K income; 39% have college or graduate degrees.

Looking at a more recent development in the blogosphere, the Pew survey also found that 6 M Internet users use RSS feeds, another indication of great autonomy in managing media access and participation.

Young and affluent most active Internet group

Most active web users are young, affluent, a synthesis of a JupiterResearch report, identifies the most active user group with people of age between 25 and 34 and household incomes over $ 75K. They are:

  • males (74% vs. 49% Internet population)
  • their household has a broadband connection (55% vs. 33%)
  • with five or more years of Internet experience (84% vs. 51%)

This group considers that Internet increases the efficiency of their daily lives (65% vs. 43%); and carries out a wider range of activities online that the overall Internet population, e.g. browses, accesses media, does personal business, such as online banking (62% vs. 42%).

On the assessment of digital literacy

The design of tests such as the "Information and Communications Technology literacy assessment" - a subject developed by Tom Zeller Jr in the NYT article dated 17-01-05 Measuring literacy in a world gone digital  - rests on normative assumptions about what is a proficient use of the Internet. The selection of tasks and their measures are a direct reflection of these assumptions. Some tasks assess what can be considered skill-level abilities: create a spreadsheet; create an e-mail and manage an inbox; manipulate tables and charts; search and gather material on a topic. Others deal with higher-level cognitive tasks such as organise, interpret and verify information from heterogeneous sources.

In an earlier time, information came, really, from only one place: the University Library. Now it is all part of a giant continuum, and often the student is the sole arbiter of what is good information, what is bad information and what all the shades are in between (Lorie Roth, Assistant vice chancellor of academic programs for the California State University).   

The dominant underlying usage model seems to be that of an Internet user who's a receiver/recipient of information confronted with the problem of selecting and evaluating the formidable volume of very diverse information accessible today. A radically different approach to ICT Literacy would follow from an alternative reference usage model where the user is a sender of information as much as a receiver; a producer as much as a recipient. This alternative approach would have two main implications. It would set active involvement in the Information Society as one of the criteria; and would require quite different basic tasks at both the skill- and cognitive-levels, tasks more focused on publication, participation and sharing, and less on individual information processing activities.

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