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Mary Meeker on China

Today Mary Meeker once again presented her latest views on the State of the Internet. I love her slide decks, they are very inspirational and always give me lots of new ideas – not necessarily anymore for companies to found, but at least for companies to fund.

One interesting thing about today’s presentation is that she talks a lot about China and compares the Internet usage there with that in the rest of the world. If you don’t have time to go through the whole presentation, here are some of the notes that I took while reading it during my lunch break today.

-China now has 564 million Internet users, almost twice as many as the #2 country, the USA with 244 million users. This gap will only widen, because the yearly growth in the US is just 3% against 10% in China. So far in China only 42% of the population is online (US: 78%) meaning that the Internet still has a lot of room to grow.

– Surprisingly, the country where most people share ‘everything’ or ‘most things’ online is… Saudi Arabia (60%). The rest of the top 5 are all Asian countries (#5 Turkey is actually Eurasian), followed by China at #6. In China 33% of the Internet users share almost everything online, something you can clearly see if you compare Weibo or WeChat usage to the usage of Twitter in the US. In the US the percentage is 15%, far below the world average of 24%.

– Mary Meeker makes a mistake by saying that the top 8 of biggest Global Internet Properties are all US companies. The data they use (based on Comscore) suggest that #9 (Tencent) and #10 (Baidu) both have less than 300 million unique monthly visitors. This is far below their real user numbers, the Comscore figures for China are always way too low. It should have been clear from some of her other charts that her figures are too low, for example WeChat (a Tencent app that was launched 18 months ago) already has 400 million users. WeChat is just one of many of Tencent’s services. Later she mentions Sina Weibo with 530 million users, which did not even make it in the top 10. Not a big deal, but in my opinion Chinese companies should be ranked much higher in the Global Internet Properties list.

– Her observation that the mobile Internet in China is now bigger than the PC Internet is a good one. Globally mobile Internet traffic is only 15% of total Internet traffic, so the rest of the world has a lot of catching up to do. China shows us what kind of mobile Internet services might appear in the Western world, for example a taxi app where you can push to talk to the driver or where you can bid higher to make sure you get the taxi if it’s busy. Unfortunately the taxi apps example is not a good one because they may be restricted soon, but it shows how innovative China is.

– In China time spent on the Internet is higher than time spent on TV: 33% of media time is spent online vs. 29% while watching TV.

– Alibaba (China e-commerce) is now bigger than Ebay and Amazon combined in terms of gross merchandise value.

It’s a good sign that Mary Meeker emphasizes what’s happening in China. When I talk to Internet people in Vancouver I am surprised that many still don’t realize about how big and innovative the Chinese Internet really is.

There is a lot more in the presentation (most not related to China) that I won’t talk about here, but that you should check out if you want to understand where the world is headed. I want to end with one example about Google Glass. Wearable technology is something I believe in but that is getting a lot of criticism. Mary Meeker simply observes that the average smartphone user reaches for his/her mobile phone 150 times per day, this could be hands-free with Google Glass-like technologies. I am looking forward to the future!

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