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Marketing in the Internet - as seen from Italy


by Giancarlo Livraghi

No. 24 - August 16, 1998

  1. Editorial: What'snew?
  2. Numbers worldwide
  3. Numbers in Europe
  4. Growth in Italy
  5. Large low-density countries
  6. The Spanish-speaking area
  7. Two other sets of data

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1. Editorial: What's new?
This issue is about numbers; especially the new mid-year worldwide hostcount survey.

What’s new? Nothing much, in the broad global picture. The net remains concentrated in a small part of the world – and in most places it’s used by a relatively small number of people. Ten countries, with eleven percent of the world’s population, have 85 percent of the net. (But a year ago they had 90 percent, so maybe there is a small beginning of an evolution).

Growth is fast (but definitely not "exponential"). There are relevant differences between areas and countries. Some (such as Argentina and Mexico in the last six months) have very fast growth; some are far below the world average; in a few the hostcount is decreasing.

The United States maintain their dominant position, but the "rest of the world" may be beginning to grow a little faster; six months is too short a period to define a trend, but the US share seems to be decreasing from 70 to 65 percent. Even so... we are still a long way from "globality". Europe seems to be in step with the world average growth and gaining slightly on the US.

In Europe there are remarkable changes. The United Kingdom is the leading country (only slightly ahead of Germany in total number, but far ahead in density). The distance is shortening between the traditional high-density countries (Scandinavia) and other parts of Europe; there was fast growth in the Netherlands and in Belgium.

The French peculiarity remains. Other sources suggest that there is more action in the internet from France than hostcount would indicate. This is probably because most of the local traffic is still in the minitel and French use of the internet is more concentrated in international dialogue, web search, etc.

"Southern" Europe remains weak. Italy, Spain and Greece are growing faster than European and worldwide average, but they are still a long way from catching up with the more advanced countries.

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2. Numbers worldwide
On August 11 Network Wizards published their new survey of internet hosts worldwide, as they have been doing twice a year since 1993. We must remember that the system was changed this year, so these figures can be compared with the survey published on February 6, 1998 but not with older data.

For the total number of hosts worldwide Network Wizards provide an "adjusted" hostcount that makes the data comparable for the last four years. This is the picture:

Number Six month increase Annual increase
January 1995 5,846,000 51.1 % * 118.8 % *
July 1995 8,200,000 40.3 % 106.8 % *
January 1996 14,352,000 75.0 % 145.5 %
July 1996 16,729,000 16.6 % 104.0 %
January 1997 21,819,000 30.4 % 52.0 %
July 1997 26,053,000 19.4 % 55.7 %
January 1998 29,670,000 13.9 % 36.0 %
July 1998 36,739,000 23.8 % 41.0 %

* Note: the percentages of growth in 1995 over 1994 are based on non-adjusted data for both years.

As we had seen in past months and years – there are ups-and downs in the growth rate and percentages decrease as numbers get larger. That was to be expected; it’s disappointing only for whoever (quite absurdly) thought that growth could continue with the 1994-1995 percentages. If that had been the case, by now there would be 100 million internet hosts worldwide; and by the turn of the century the global penetration of the internet would be higher than it is now in the United States and in Finland.

There was an increase of the growth rate in the last six months. Of course it’s too soon to tell if this is just a temporary variation or the beginning of a new trend. In any case, the future is quite unpredictable. Many different circumstances can influence the many and complex human activities on the net; there can be unexpected changes of pace and direction.

As we shall see, there are considerable differences when we look into regional and local data.

There are now 39 countries with over 20.000 internet hosts.

% of total % growth in six months
United States 23,792,527 64.8 15.2
Japan 1,352,200 3.7 16.2
United Kingdom 1,190,663 3.2 20.6
Germany 1,154.340 3.1 16.0
Canada 1.027,571 2.8 22.5
Australia 750,327 2.0 12.8
Netherlands 514,660 1.4 35.0
Finland 513,527 1.4 14.1
France 431,045 1.2 29.3
Sweden 380,634 1.0 19.3
Italy 320,725 0.9 31.9
Norway 312,441 0.9 9.1
Spain 243,439 0.7 44.3
Switzerland 205,503 0.6 79.1
Denmark 190,293 0.5 19.4
New Zealand 177,753 0.5 5.0
Korea 174,800 0.5 44.0
Brazil 163,890 0.5 39.9
Belgium 153,760 0.4 74.9
Russia 150,446 0.4 31.2
South Africa 140,577 0.4 15.2
Austria 132,202 0.4 21.1
Taiwan 103,661 0.3 ( – 41.4 )
Poland 98,798 0.3 27.3
China (incl. Hong Kong) 91,545 0.3 10.4
Israel 87,642 0.2 36.4
Mexico 83,949 0.2 101.5
Hungary 73,987 0.2 60.6
Czech Republic 65,672 0.2 23.9
Singapore 59,469 0.2 3.2
Argentina 57,532 0.2 187.9
Portugal 45,910 0.1 16.1
Ireland 44,840 0.1 16.8
Malaysia 40,758 0.1 26.3
Greece 40,061 0.1 51.4
Turkey 27,861 0.1 12.4
Thailand 25,459 0.1 77.1
Chile 22,889 0.1 28.5
Iceland 20,678 0.1 18.5

In this period growth in the United States was below the world average. There were large differences in the growth rates of other countries. Mexico doubled its presence and Argentina almost tripled.

The two largest countries in the world are still very small on the internet. China (if we don’t include Hong Kong) has 19,313 internet hosts; 18 percent more than it had six months earlier. India has 10,436 with 45 percent growth (that’s half the number of internet hosts in Iceland, an island with 270,000 inhabitants). So far the announced "liberalization" of internet services in India has had no major effect; and of course there are severe restrictions in China (as in many other countries). In another section  of this issue there is a short update of the large low-density countries.

This is the global picture by major areas:


No major change, of course, in only six months. There are big differences within each area. 95 percents of the hosts in North America are in the US. In Asia, 75 percent are in Japan. In Africa, 95 percent in South Africa. In the Pacific area, 99 percent are in Australia and New Zealand. Half the hosts in Central and South America are in Brazil. Europe is the only area where no country has more than 20 percent; but, as we shall see, there are considerable differences there as well.

"Globality", like "compatibility", is a myth. And there may be a relevant connection between the two problems.

Now let’s look at a picture of the situation in the 12 countries with the largest hostcount.

Internet Hosts

12 countries with more than 300,000 hosts (of over 200 listed by Network Wizards) – July 1998


In this graph, as in those following, data for France are approximately
"adjusted" to account for the minitel peculiarity

For a more detailed reading, let’s see a picture not including the United States.

Internet hosts (not including the United States)

19 countries with more than 150,000 hosts (of over 200 listed by Network Wizards) – July 1998


Internet hosts (not including the United States)

27 countries with more than 70,000 hosts (of over 200 listed by Network Wizards)
July 1998 (numbers in thousands)

graph24a.gif (4726 byte)

Note: the pale blue section of the bar for France is an estimate of the minitel factor.
The yellow section of the bar for China shows the hostcount in Hong Kong.

The green section of the bars shows the growth in six months (January to July 1998).

The next chart shows density (internet hosts per 1000 inhabitants).

Internet hosts per 1000 inhabitants

Countries with more than 50,000 hosts and density above 2
Analysis based on Network Wizards data – July 1998

graph24b.gif (4443 byte)

Four countries with over 50,000 hosts are not included in this chart: Argentina (density 1.66), Russia (1.02), Brazil (1.01) and Mexico (0.90). There is a short analysis  of large low-density countries in another section of this issue.


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3. Numbers in Europe
Before we get into the country-by-country situation in Europe, I think it’s interesting to compare the European and global trends. Data provided by Network Wizards and RIPE (Réseaux IP Européeens) are not identical, because they don’t follow exactly the same system; but as they both measure the same thing, and each series is coherent with itself, I believe the comparison is relevant.


Internet hosts – Index – January 1995 = 100

(January and July of each year)
Analysis on data by Network Wizards and RIPE (Réseaux IP Européens)

graph24c.gif (2453 byte) 

Simple – but, I think, relevant. The trend in Europe is the same as in the world as a whole. If (as it seems) the "rest of the world" is beginning to gain slightly on the United states – so is Europe.

(About half of the internet hosts outside the United States are in Europe).

An analysis of European data confirms relevant differences in the development of individual countries.

As usual, there some differences between the worldwide and European data, due to different systems and timing in the RIPE and Network Wizards surveys.

According to RIPE (July 1998) there are 32 countries in Europe with more than 5000 internet hosts.

% of Europe % growth
United Kingdom 1,321,905 18.9 30.9
Germany 1,308,706 18.7 15.6
Netherlands 533,135 7.9 36.3
France 447,153 6.4 26.0
Finland 438,730 6.3 ( – 9.9 )
Sweden 367,442 5.3 5.4
Italy 357,919 5.1 40.8
Norway 302,520 4.3 3.5
Spain 258,015 3.7 31.4
Switzerland 216,341 3.1 14.4
Denmark 200,433 2.9 18.3 %
Belgium 180,896 2.6 69.4 %
Russia 175,930 2.6 15.3 %
Austria 152,334 2.2 40.4 %
Poland 110,453 2.0 24.9 %
Israel 96,100 1.4 10.8 %
Hungary 85,337 1.2 25.7 %
Czech Republic 71,129 1.0 24.2 %
Portugal 49,845 0.7 17.4 %
Ireland 48,816 0.7 22.5 %
Greece 40,260 0.6 43.1 %
Turkey 37,713 0.5 7.6
Iceland 21,720 0.3 17.2
Slovenia 21,419 0.3 9.9
Estonia 20.063 0.3 26.7
Romania 19,593 0.3 44.4
Ukraine 18,645 0.3 33.2
Slovakia 18,643 0.3 28.4
Latvia 9,750 0.1 37.6
Lithuania 7,969 0.1 97.0
Luxembourg 6,719 0.1 41.7
Croatia 6,164 0.1 ( – 25.2 )

This is a graph of the situation in the first 21 countries:

Internet hosts in the Europe-Mediterranean area

(numbers in thousands) – July 1998
21 countries with more than 40,000 host – of 52 in the RIPE area (Réseaux IP Européens)


graph24d.gif (3944 byte) 

In this graph and in the next the pale blue part of the bar for France is an estimate of the minitel factor

The green section of bars indicates growth in six months (January to July 1998). The fastest growing country in this period (70 percent) was Belgium (the "Benelux" area is doing well, with 36 percent growth in the Netherlands and 42 in tiny Luxembourg). Britain increased 29 percent and added 300,000 hosts in this period, while Germany (with 16 percent growth) was below the European average.

Average growth in Europe was 20.6 percent. Above average were also Romania (44), Greece (43), Italy (41), Austria (40), the Baltic republics (40), Ukraine (33), Spain (31), Slovakia (28), Hungary (25), France (26), Poland (24), the Czech Republic (24) and Ireland (22).

Once again, we see slower growth ("saturation"?) in some countries wit traditional high density. The hostcount in Finland decreased 10 percent; in Sweden it grew 5 percent, in Norway 3.

Now, as usual, let’s look at density.


Density in the Europe-Mediterranean area

Internet hosts per 1000 inhabitants – July 1998
21 countries with more than 40,000 host – of 52 in the RIPE area (Réseaux IP Européens)

graph24e.gif (3792 byte)

 In the next graph we see the internet hostcount in relation to gross national product (in the European Union).

Internet hosts in relation to GNP in the European Union

Analysis on RIPE data (Réseaux IP Européens) – Jully 1998

 graph24f.gif (2572 byte)

Not a pleasant picture, as seen from Italy. But France (if we don’t consider the minitel factor – pink area of the bar) is doing even worse: its presence on the internet is far behind its economy. The French government is aware of the problem and is trying to solve it.

Europe’s biggest economy, Germany, isn’t looking very good on this score; the UK and the Netherlands are much stronger.

(The low score for Luxembourg is due to high income rather than low internet activity).

I think it’s interesting to look a the growth trend in the five largest European countries.

Internet hosts in five European countries - 1995-1998

Source RIPE (Réseaux IP Européens) – quarterly data – numbers in thousands

graph24g.gif (4705 byte) 

Note:: the minitel factor in France is not considered in this chart

Trends are fairly steady, with temporary ups-and-downs. The two strongest countries are gaining ground (especially the UK, that in July overtook Germany).

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4. Growth in Italy
Let’s look at an update of the trend in Italy.

Internet hosts in Italy - 1995-1998

(numbers in thousands)
Source: RIPE (Réseaux IP Européens)


graph24h.gif (2509 byte)

Things are looking up in the last four months, but Italy should more than double its share to be in line with the role of its economy in Europe.

Here’s another look at growth rates in Italy and Europe


Italy % Europe %
January 1995 over January 1994 79 88
January 1996 over January 1995 153 107
January 1997 over January 1996 142 72
January 1998 over January 1997 30 51
July 1998 over July 1997 43 47

The trend is quite obvious if we look at the next graph.

Number of internet hosts – Index – December 1996 = 100

graph24i.gif (2332 byte)

To reach an "appropriate" level Italy would need constant growth twice as fast as the European (and worldwide) average. If the trend in the last few months could be sustained, the result could be achieved in three or four years. That’s not impossible; but it would need a strong commitment by all concerned, including the government

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5. Large low-density countries
Here’s another look, a year later, at the situation   of those seventeen countries with over 50 million inhabitants that have very low penetration of the net. Twelve of those countries have over 1,000 internet hosts (percentages indicate growth in six months):
Brazil 163,890 + 39.8 %
Russia 150,446 + 28.4 %
Mexico 83,949 + 101.5 %
Turkey 27,861 + 12.4 %
Thailand 25,459 + 77.1 %
China (without Hong Kong) 19,313 + 18.3 %
Ukraine 13,271 + 44.6 %
Indonesia 10,691 + 11.3 %
India 10,436 + 45.8 %
Philippines 7,602 + 76.3 %
Egypt 2,043 + 1.5 %
Pakistan 1,923 + 48.9 %

As we did a year ago, we shall divide them in three groups: those with density between 0.1 and 1.2 hosts per 1000 inhabitants; those with an index between 0.01 and 0.06; and those that have an extremely low presence on the net. (Of course these are only a few examples: there are many countries with less than 50 million inhabitants that are in similar situations).

The green part of bars in both graphs is the growth in six months (January to July 1998).

Seven low density countries

Hosts per 1000 inhabitants – density between 0,1 a 1,02 – analysis on data by Network Wizards

graph24l.gif (1925 byte)

In this group we see some fast-growing countries (especially Mexico and Brazil). Russia is growing, but still has a smaller presence on the net that some countries with two percent of its population.

The distance between these countries and the most advanced nations is large; but there is a big gap between these and the next group.

Five "very low density" countries

Hosts per 1000 inhabitants – density between 0,01 e 0,06 – analysis on data by Network Wizards


In this group we se no signs, yet, of ant relevant change. The situation in India and China is the same as a year ago.

The other five "big countries" are almost totally isolated. There are 264 (strictly controlled) internet hosts in Iran; 91 in Nigeria, 76 in Ethiopia, 25 in Vietnam. The Network Wizards report contains no data on Bangladesh.

There are big difference within the world of "low density" countries. For instance in Africa there are countries with relatively high density (0.4 hosts per 1000 inhabitants) such as Namibia and Botswana – as compared to 0.002 in Kenya and Senegal. In North Africa the low density in Egypt (0.03) and Morocco (0.06) seems relatively high when compared to Tunisia (0.006) or Algeria (less than 0.001). Only one internet host is found in Libya, Liberia, Gabon, Congo; none in Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda, Guinea, Ciad, Eritrea. If we exclude South Africa, there are fewer internet hosts in the whole continent that in Latvia or Lithuania. Many parts of Asia are in the same situation.

There is no lack of technical solutions for these problems (including wireless connections). But political, cultural and economic difficulties are hard to overcome. "Globality" is still far away.

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6. The Spanis-speaking area
There is big potential for the development of the net in Spanish, but the picture is still quite confused. There is some growth in Latin America, but it’s patchy.

These are the Spanish-speaking countries with over 1000 internet hosts according to the July 1998 worldwide survey:

Hosts % growth per 1000 inhabitants
Spain 243,436 44.2 6.6
Mexico 83,949 101.5 0.9
Argentina 57,532 187.9 1.7
Chile 22,898 28.5 1.6
Uruguay 16,345 58.8 5.1
Colombia 11,864 16.6 0.3
Venezuela 6,825 76.5 0.3
Dominican Rep. 4,917 1.3 0.6
Peru 3,736 8.8 0.2
Costa Rica 2,488 = 0.7
Ecuador 1,227 18.4 0.1
Guatemala 1,046 57.3 0.1

Nearly two thirds of the internet hosts in the Spanish-speaking area are in Spain (that has one tenth of the population). Some countries have fast growth, others are slower. In Latin America (except Uruguay) density is very low. Of course there are severe problems of illiteracy and poverty in many of these countries, but there is considerable room for growth. There is also a large Spanish-speaking community in the United States, but according to some American surveys it still has relatively low penetration of internet use.

An example of how many "potential" developments there could be in the net.

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7. Two other sets of data
One of the unsolved mysteries in the internet is why many high traffic sites (such as the big search engines) refuse to disclose a breakdown of visitors (or "hits") by country. Of course they have the figures, but they keep them to themselves. A year ago I found two sites  that made this information available, and one more in February.

Here are two more sets of data from high-traffic European sites. Of course these figures don’t measure the number of "users" in each country, but the level of activity in using specific sources of information.

Thanks to the courtesy of a friend, I have been able to get figures on a site that has a very large number of visitors: the European section of Altavista, that is managed by Telia in Sweden, with interfaces in 23 languages. This is the traffic in one month (June 1998). Of course this information has no "universal" value but I think it’s a relevant indicator. It doesn’t measure the number of "users", but the level of activity in web search. Only in Europe (this service has few visitors from other parts of the world).

A technical note: the percentages are an average of two indexes (number of visitors and number of pages seen) and "weighted" to reduce the impact of Sweden, that as the home country has 40 percent of the traffic (Sweden, for this reason, is not included in the list). Another "warping" factor is the relatively low level of visitors from English-speaking countries (the UK and Ireland) as many people there probably go directly to the US search engine. This list includes countries with a percentage higher than 0.4.

France 14.18
Germany 13.57
Finland 9.02
UK 8.79
Netherlands 5.85
Denmark 5.01
Norway 4.88
Italy 3.18
Spain 2.94
Switzerland 2.00
Belgium 1.86
Austria 1.28
Poland 0.93
Russia 0.87
Estonia 0.62
Slovenia 0.50
Iceland 0.50
Czech Republic 0.43
Hungary 0.41

For a better understanding of these figures, let’s look a them in relation to population.

Use of Altavista Europe in relation to population

June 1998

graph24n.gif (3751 byte)

The next set of figures is an update on another high-volume site, the RIPE European internet service, based on visits between April 1 and August 16, 1998.

There are 27 countries with over 20,000 visits to this site. As this is a service for Europe, a not-so-high percentage of visits from the United States, and small numbers for other non-European countries, are to be expected.

United States 1,585,650 32.36
Germany 755,327 15.42
Sweden 516.445 10.54
Denmark 265,706 5.42
Austria 260,186 5.31
Norway 230,367 4.70
Czech Republic 200,064 4.08
United Kingdom 186,469 3.81
Italy 166,317 3.39
France 154,907 3.16
Netherlands 142,660 2.91
Russia 111,877 2.28
Spain 87,503 1.79
Switzerland 81,999 1.67
Belgium 69,941 1.43
Finland 64,119 1.31
Israel 59,362 1.21
Poland 50,009 1.02
Japan 44,389 0.91
Slovakia 39,139 0.80
Hungary 34,338 0.70
Greece 25,405 0.52
Romania 25,132 0.51
Canada 23,792 0.48
Portugal 23,659 0.48
Ireland 22,315 0.46
Turkey 20,148 0.41

Now let’s look at the picture in relation to population (for European-Mediterranean countries with over 1 percent of total visits to this site).


Visits to RIPE in relation to population

Countries in Europe-Mediterranean with over 1 percent of all visits – April-August 1998

graph24o.gif (3488 byte)

Of course no single site (no matter how large its traffic) can give us a picture of overall internet activity. But it’s interesting, I think, to notice how things look different when seen from another perspective.



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