Global Popularity of Internet Sites & Services

One thing that constantly surprises me is country-to-country variance in popularity for major internet sites and services.

Sure, there are the global (or near-global) heavyweights like PayPal, eBay, and Amazon, but there are also a number of surprises in services you would expect to be just as pervasive.

Take, for example, online instant messaging. In the United States, my personal experience seems to indicate that AOL instant messenger (AIM) is the most popular messaging client, whereas my experience in Canada seems to show MSN messenger is dominant (an April ComScore report indicates usage in “North America” is about tied between AIM and MSN – my cursory search was unable to bring up any breakdown of market share by country). Google trends (for what it’s worth) seems to validate this presumption:


One of the most talked-about regional differences is that of MySpace and Bebo in the US vs the UK. HitWise reports UK market share of Bebo has surpassed MySpace at 12.9%, and in recent months this seems to have set the blogosphere afire, especially with Bebo’s rejection of £300 million from BT.

Another, less-talked about site that really hasn’t hit its stride outside North America is Craigslist. The London site has been live since 2003 but seems to only be populated with American expats and aggresive spammers. Have a look at the for sale listings – nearly every other one is for something outside the UK! Perhaps CL just couldn’t compete with existing players like Loot and the largely-Antipodean GumTree. Something just didn’t spark.  Compare to the Toronto CL, launched at the same time as London, which is booming.

(Sidenote Funny – I was with a group of British & American friends at the door of a London club late last year and mentioned I was on Craig’s List…Craig being one of the DJs. The Americans in this group thought this was hilarious, whereas the locals had absolutely no idea what we were laughing at.)

I suppose when you look at it you can sum it all up to this – these are all services that spread entirely through word-of-mouth, and word-of-mouth has very-real geographical borders. You have to wonder…if the experiment Malcom Gladwell discusses of Harvard social psychologist Stanley Milgram determining “six degrees of separation” were tried at the global scale, how much different this would be. Six degrees might be sixteen…or sixty…


4 Responses to “Global Popularity of Internet Sites & Services”

  1. 1 Would like to be anonymous. August 25, 2006 at 7:30 pm

    Are you proposing from this research that there are more users of the internet in these countries, or that the other countries use other instant messenging services outside of AIM and MSN?

    What other programs are there, for example that are more popular for europeon countries? Do you do a lot of cross-cultural research?

  2. 2 Erik Fantasia August 25, 2006 at 7:40 pm

    I’m proposing they are using other instant messaging services. This is based primarily on my personal experiences living and travelling abroad (I lived in London, England between 2001 and 2005). The Google Trends results are normalized to take into account population, by the way (

    I’ve been involved in helping UK companies expand to the US, doing localization and market research, etc, but it’s not my main area of expertise.

  1. 1 fonda jane let see Trackback on February 15, 2007 at 7:44 pm
  2. 2 aqua master Trackback on June 7, 2007 at 12:34 pm

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