Should you just forget the Internet and go back in time?

Google is the world’s most popular web service, though it vies for top spot with Facebook each month. Between them, they are responsible for one fifth of all Internet traffic. The other four fifths is divided amongst the rest of us. But new research shows just how domineering the giants of the web are.

Instead of looking at the numbers of people, the research from Sandvine, a network consultancy firm, investigated the amount of data we consume. And it paints a completely different picture of our online activities.

Finger poised on video play buttonGoogle is still doing very well, thank you very much, but with its YouTube service, rather than the search engine. Indeed, YouTube accounts for 18.69% of all Internet traffic. But it is not Number One in the charts – that’s held by Netflix which has 31.62% of the traffic. Between them, these two video streaming services consume 50.31% of all online traffic. It gets worse. When you look at the research you discover that visiting what you might call “ordinary” websites – the web browsing activity we do from day to day using the “HTTP” system is only responsible for 9.74% of Internet traffic. That’s right, less than 10% of all the data we consume online has anything to do with “normal” websites.

The rest is iTunes, the TV service Hulu, Amazon Video – oh, and Facebook. In other words, almost all the Internet traffic these days is entertainment traffic.

The Internet is no longer the “information superhighway” but is the “entertainment superhighway”.

Perhaps, unless we are in the online entertainment business, we should forget the Internet and go back in time to use those real world business communications tools which worked so well for centuries. Perhaps the Internet is only a short-lived business blip?

Of course, by measuring data, rather than numbers of visits or numbers of people it is not necessarily comparing like with like. One view of your website home page is going to consume a lot less Internet traffic than one view of one video on YouTube. So, the information from Sandvine is somewhat distorting.

Even though web activity is responsible for less than 10% of all online data transmission, there are still 1.4 billion people engaged in using websites every day. The amount of data they may be using is not much, but the extent of their activity is significant.

However, the data figures provide an important signal to those of us trying to get to those 1.4bn eyeballs. The Sandvine study shows that entertainment is a significant trigger online. It suggest if your website is not entertaining, the extent of the engagement is probably less. Because we are all downloading so much entertainment, it signals that entertainment is an important factor in engaging people.

That does not mean you need to be funny or weird. Entertainment means engaging people emotionally. That’s why YouTube, Netflix and the like get so much data downloaded – their videos engage people at the emotional level. Your website can begin to see its data volumes rise once it becomes more emotionally engaging.

The reason why the normal web traffic is less than 10% of data volumes transmitted is because the vast majority of websites are emotionless. Once they add in emotional engagement, that 10% will rise.

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