Chapter Five: Basic Net Data

Richard T. Griffiths (Leiden University)

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This chapter has relied heavily on:

- The Internet Geography Project (Berkeley) 
- GVU WWW User Surveys
- A good source of articles on these developments is:

Internet Use

The number of users has grown from an estimated 38m in 1994 to 101m in January 1998 and over 400m in December 2000 and 580m in May 2002.

Globalisation and the Global Divide

Globalisation has been in vogue since the mid-1980s, referring to the increasing interdependence of the world economy and to the increasing “statelessness” of some of the major players. The growth of the internet, and its geographical spread, lent itself to the same rhetoric… and no wonder. With a PC and a modem, anyone could join the “global village”. However, the growth of the internet has been anything but even, and large areas of the world have scarcely been touched by the internet explosion. 

share of world internet users

Figure one: Share of World's Internet Users

Another analysis estimates the number of internet users in December 2000 at 418.6 million and gives the following breakdown:

Figure Two: Distribution of Internet Users (millions)

  December 2000 May 2002
USA/Canada 177.78 (42.5%) 182.67 (31.4%)
Europe 133.97 (32.0%) 185.83 (32.0%)
Asia/Pacific 104.88 (25.1%) 167.86 (28.9%)
Latin America 16.45 (3.9%) 32.99 (5.7%)
Africa 3.11 (0.7%) 6.31 (1.1%)
Middle East 2.40 (0.6%) 5.12 (0.9%)
TOTAL 418.59 580.78

The world pattern is not just one of countries. The map below demonstrates that even within countries, there are major differences in internet coverage. The use of the internet, not surprisingly, is largely an urban phenomenon… providing some pockets of coverage in cities in developing countries, but leaving large swathes of mankind almost completely untouched.


Distribution of internet coverage

Figure Three: Distribution of Internet Coverage

We can also view the growth of the internet through the main content providers, through an analysis of the domain names. Analysis undertaken in Berkeley has used CONE domain names as a basis for analysis. CONE stands for:

  • .com

  • .org

  • .net

  • .edu

This does not cover the whole span of options, and country names have become increasingly popular.

Figure Four: Growth of CONE Domain names (January each year unless otherwise stated)

  . com .org .net .edu TOTAL .Country
7/1989         3,900  
10/1990         9,300  
10/1991         18,000  
4/1992         20,000  
1/1993         21,000  
1/1994         30,000  


1/1996         240,000  
1/1997         828,000  
1/1998         2,292,000  
1/1999 3,425,625 347,550 261,375 4,194 4,037,875 1,466,276
1/2000 20,652,200 2,446,840 3,888,091


26,993,431 3,393,973
1/2001 21,023,720 2,489,924 3,960,363 6,317 27,480,324 10,078,693


2,833,781 4,404,308 6,563 30,089,731 12,465,548
1/2002 22,746,754 2,484,866 3,988,975 7,012 29,277,627  
7/2002 21,270,830 2,336,914 3,592,057 7,412 27,207,213  

These CONE domains are centrally registered in the USA, but they also record the country of registration. The dominance of the United States is immediately evident, although it has been decreasing over time, from 74.4% in January 1999 to 60.8% in January 2001. If, however, we include the country domain names (and the US does not have a country code) the percentages are more modest still. In January 1999 the US represented 54.6% and in January 2001 42,3%. The concentration of domain names in urban centres is also striking. Six major metropolitan areas (New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London and Washington DC) accounted for no less than 17.7% of all the top-level names registered.

Figure Five: Distribution of CONE and Country Domain Names

CONE and country domain names


One world? Age and Gender Usage

Age distribution has tended to age as the internet expands.

Age distribution            Age distribution

Figure Six and Seven: Age distribution tendency 

The use of the internet, world-wide is concentrated in the age-groups 20-45 (which represents 64.7%) and tailing off each five-year age span thereafter. The over-sixties together make up less than 5% of the users. The European pattern diverges markedly from the rest, with 68.4% of users concentrated in the age groups 21-35. It is possible that this might have something to do with a small sample size (1998 n=369) but the pattern persists in earlier samples.

Figure Eight: Age Distribution and Location 

There was once a time when  the distribution of internet users was overwhelmingly male. In 1994 they represented 95% of all usersworld-wide, but this has rapidly fallen to 65% today. One notable feature is that Europe has been much slower in this transition than either the USA or the rest of the world. This pattern, too, is evident in earlier surveys.

Figure Nine: Gender Distribution of Internet use 1998 (percent)

  Male Female
USA 64.2 35.8
Europe 81.6 18.4
Rest of World 76.4 23.6
TOTAL 66.4 33.6


Source Figures:




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R.T. Griffiths
Last update: 11 October 2002