There’s growth, and then there’s growth.

At our annual sales conference, Lori and I sat in on a great presentation by coworker Dawn Parzych that talked about the Internet, usage, and patterns. There are two interesting statistics that she presented, and I’ve munged them to generate a combined statistic. Dawn is our Product Manager for acceleration, but the statistics I’m pulling out of her presentation are generic informational statistics. She mentioned her source, but alas,  I didn’t write it down. Drop me a line if you simply must have it, and I’ll bug her for it.

  Statistic one: Number of Internet Users, 1995 to present.

The numbers she quoted were 36 million in 1995 and 2.1 billion in 2011.

Note that the graphs used in this post are all mine, so I bear responsibility if they don’t match the text description.

As an interesting side note, they were all generated in Google Docs because Excel has lost the ability to make such a simple graphic without sacrificing a chicken.

While the graph was generated just with the end points, it no doubt would look much more exponential if I had data for every year in between these two. Still, you get the point, it’s going up pretty darned fast. That’s a 58x increase in 15 years, or an average of 3.89x per year.





But that’s just the starting graphic, there are more.

Statistic two: Average Number of Hours Spent Online per Month

This one is interesting also. The amount of time the average person spends online each month went from half an hour to twenty seven hours – a 54 times increase – in the same time-period. Now if you’re reading this blog, you might think “that’s too low, less than an hour a day”, but that’s because we work in high-tech. I know plenty of people who go days without so much as checking email. My oldest son, when discussing this statistic asked a lot of questions like “how’s that fall out by age?” and “Does that count time ‘online’ with things like the XBox and Wii?” To which, of course, I have no answer since it was a statistic I received in a presentation, but would be fun to pull out and play with. Exactly how does the graph look when age and other demographics are factored in? I suspect that while twenty-somethings were early adopters, at this point, things like Facebook have pulled the grandparents up to something close to the young adult levels – as long as pure gaming systems aren’t taken into account – but that’s a guess, not an evaluation of any type.






So that was all that Dawn had in the presentation – well, not all, there were a LOT more statistics in her presentation, but this is the series that grabbed my attention.

My first thought might have been yours… “What does that mean for user hours. Both are increasing at an astounding rate, how’s that hitting the old infrastructure?”

And so I generated that chart. Please remember that this is a multiplication of two averages, and doesn’t reflect year-over-year actual changes. If year to year data were available for both statistics, I suspect it would be very exponential. It’s not, because we’re just multiplying start and end figures. Still, check out the usage numbers for the Internet as a whole…

That is a whopping 3150 times increase in man hours per month spent online. Yeah, that’s a lot.

Think of what could be done with that number of man-hours. Not to say that all of this time is used unproductively, but it is certainly not all used productively, I can tell you about my six hours online every other week that is pure gaming, for example.

But more to the point, think of the resiliency of the Internet. It didn’t melt, as lots of people claimed it would. And when you factor in the increase in audio and video over the Internet 1996 to 2011, that really is kind of amazing. We should have had a lot more problems than we have.

Of course, I’d love to have the annual numbers, and will ask Dawn if I can have them to post an update. That will likely show the exponential nature much better than these do. Two data points do not a dataset make and all that.

But the point is clear, we’re adding a lot of bandwidth to the Internet, and you’re likely adding a fair share to your own Internet connection. I might know a company that can help with that… I DID mention that Dawn is our Web Acceleration PM too, right?


And all is still running pretty darned smoothly. Where there are issues, there are WAN Optimization and Web Acceleration technologies to help resolve them.

Any bets on what this graphic will look like in another 15 years? How big the numbers will be? Not from me, I figure we’re still in exponential growth stage, but won’t be for a full 15 years more.

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Published Nov 17, 2011
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