Summary: The Internet is growing at an annualized rate of 18% and now has one billion users. A second billion users will follow in the next ten years, bringing a dramatic change in worldwide usability needs.
Some time in 2005, we quietly passed a dramatic milestone in Internet history: the one-billionth user went online. Because we have no central register of Internet users, we don’t know who that user was, or when he or she first logged on. Statistically, we’re likely talking about a 24-year-old woman in Shanghai.
According to Morgan Stanley estimates, 36% of Internet users are now in Asia and 24% are in Europe. Only 23% of users are in North America, where it all started in 1969 when two computers — one in Los Angeles, the other in Palo Alto — were networked together.
It took 36 years for the Internet to get its first billion users. The second billion will probably be added by 2015; most of these new users will be in Asia. The third billion will be harder, and might not be reached until 2040.