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Americans Kinda Got To The Internet First
Why We're Still Stuck On Websites

Posted by Charlie Recksieck on 2023-08-24
For the most part, Americans were early adopters to the internet - at least a little more than the rest of the world. Just as being "first-to-market" has ripple effects in any industry, the U.S. being big into the web in the 1990s has some consequences worth mentioning.

Dot.Com Boom

The early adoption of the internet in the U.S. gave birth to the dot-com boom, a period of explosive growth in technology-related industries. This boom led to the creation of countless startups and innovative companies that have since become tech giants. Amazon, Google, Facebook, and many others emerged from this era, reshaping industries like retail, advertising, and media.

Their early domination has led to these tech giants becoming too big to fail. On a day where AWS (Amazon Web Services) goes down for two hours, thousands of huge businesses go down with it. Their head start has given them huge advantages over their competitors, who probably will never be able to catch up.

Spread Of American Culture

Culturally, the internet’s adoption by Americans has facilitated the spread of American culture worldwide. Yes, American culture has almost been its own mono-culture worldwide. Stars from Charlie Chaplin to Clark Gable to Sylvester Stallone were all worldwide stars before the internet was a gleam in Al Gore's eye. But now culture can spread faster than ever before.

The entertainment industry, including music, movies, and television shows, gained unprecedented reach through online streaming platforms and social media. Additionally, the proliferation of user-generated content allowed individuals to express themselves creatively and share their work with a global audience.

Are We More Susceptible To Fake News

Americans' early adoption also brought about special challenges and consequences. Their extensive internet time on websites and social media (as opposed to apps with more streamlined business-to-consumer intent) has inadvertently made them more susceptible to fake news due to the rapid spread of information online.

The rise of misinformation and fake news, amplified by the speed of internet communication, has led to concerns about the erosion of trust in traditional media and institutions.

Addicted To Websites

There's an interesting effect to Americans being earlier adopters of the internet. There were no apps in the mid 1990's. The early Nokia phones had some of the first "apps" in the late 90's but apps didn't really take off as we know them until the popularity of the iPhone in the late 2000s.

Back then, websites were the only game in town. So those of us who've been on the internet for 25-30 years have gotten very used to websites. Compare that to users in emerging countries where internet access became more prevalent in the apps era. Internet customers in China and India and Africa leapt strait to apps and generally that's where they spend a higher proportion of their online time than Americans.

The same could be said of someone who's about 20 years old today. Traditional email and websites seem like the stuff of grandparents at this point.

Ignore Asia At Your Peril

In Asia, where mobile technology adoption often preceded traditional computing, mobile internet usage is more prevalent. Messaging apps and social media platforms play a central role, enabling communication, commerce, and entertainment. The concept of "super-apps," integrating various services into a single platform, is prominent in Asian internet culture.

Conversely, in the United States, desktop-based internet usage has been more prominent historically. Americans often utilize the internet for information gathering, e-commerce, and social networking. Social media, though significant, takes a different form, with platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter being primary sources of news and personal connections.

If you have an international business and worry about SEO - yes, Google is still your first concern. But you should worry about Baidu next before anything else. WeChat is one of the biggest apps in the world.

The Takeaway

We just wanted to get you thinking about how different countries' users (and ages) affect how they behave online. Everybody uses the internet in a unique way.

If you're thinking about marketing - make sure you're thinking about who uses browsers vs. apps, and who uses mobile vs. laptops vs. desktops.