Monday, 27 June 2016 05:31

The 5 Biggest Trends Affecting the Internet, According to VC Mary Meeker


It's hard to imagine a data-filled presentation of more than 200 slides being "eagerly anticipated." But each year since 1995 Mary Meeker, a partner at VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has managed to get Silicon Valley salivating over her hefty annual presentations on the state of the internet.

Commentators call the release of the always expansive slide deck "a rite of summer" and hail Meeker as "the voice of internet progress." Her "famed" presentations are called "influential" and "fascinating."

Why? A respected analyst, Meeker's offers not only a feast of facts on the state of the web, but also prescient insights on where the industry is headed.

Her slidedecks might be incredibly informative, but they're not exactly light reading. If you've got the time to wade through the whole thing, here's the complete 2016 report, which she presented this week at the Code Conference in California. But thankfully, if you're looking to get at the essence of her talk in less time, a host of articles are out summarizing the key points of the presentation. I've rounded them up here.

(Or, if this is still too much reading for you, you can always just hope that advisor Terence Kawaja will boil the whole thing down into an epic three-minute, Eminem-style rap like he with did last year's report - video at the bottom of the post.)

1. Internet growth is slowing dramatically.

"Growth of internet users worldwide is essentially flat, and smartphone growth is slowing, too," reports Bloomberg's Lizette Chapman, summing up one of Meeker's main points.

What's behind this dramatic leveling off of growth? "Developing countries have proven harder to capture than expected because internet access remains inaccessible or unaffordable for many," explains the article.

2. Advertisers aren't spending enough on mobile.

Several commentators highlighted this as a key takeaway of Meeker's presentation. "Advertisers still aren't advertising on mobile nearly enough, Meeker argues. They're still committing too many of their dollars to so-called legacy media," says Wired, for instance.

"Meeker pegs the mobile ad market at $22 billion in the US, pointing to data that shows people spend 25 percent of their time on mobile devices compared to 36 percent watching television, 22 percent staring at the Internet on their desktops, 13 percent listening to radio, and 4 percent reading print. At the same time, spending on mobile ads only accounts for 12 percent of the total advertising pie," the article elaborates.

In his roundup of the 15 most important slides in Meeker's presentation, The Washington Post's Larry Downes puts this more succinctly: "Meeker estimates that advertiser inertia translates to under-spending on mobile to the tune of $22 billion."

3. Privacy concerns are "a ticking time bomb."

"Internet users are highly conflicted about the implicit exchange of free or subsidized content and services for personalized advertising. Use of ad blockers is rising fast, and 50 percent of all consumers report being 'very concerned' about how contextual information is used by Internet companies, even as they continue to provide more and more personal information to service providers," writes Downes.

"Without more aggressive self-policing by participants in the Internet ecosystem and consolidation of splintered and inconsistent privacy regulations both within the United States (the FCC vs. the FTC, for example) and abroad (the U.S. vs. the EU, for example), the innovation engine may seize," he warns.

4. Search is about to be revolutionized...

This is one of the top three takeaways of the talk highlighted by Recode: "Typing text into a search bar is so last year. In five years, at least 50 percent of all searches are going to be either images or speech."

5. ... and so are messaging apps

"The home screen has acted as the de facto portal on mobile devices since the arrival of the iPhone and even before. Messaging apps, with context and time, have a chance to rival the home screen as the go-to place for interaction," Recode also notes.

Downes, likewise, stresses that Meeker sees vast potential in messaging apps. "Even low-level text-based messaging platforms become key components in the new consumer-driven marketplace, if only through the sheer scale of their users and interactions. WhatsApp, acquired by Facebook for $19 billion in 2014, has signed up a billion active users in just five years. Facebook's native Messenger, along with Tencent's WeChat (the dominant Chinese platform), are close behind," he explains, concluding:

"With that kind of momentum, disruptive new services are easy to launch. First give the users what they want, it turns out, and the revenue follows soon after. Simple text messages become group chats and then multi-user games, and, from there, banking and payment systems. It's amazing what you can do with a billion users deeply committed to your platform."


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