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How Americans use the internet today, by the numbers

  • How Americans use the internet today, by the numbers

    In August 1962, J.C.R. Licklider of MIT wrote a series of memos detailing an idea he called the Galactic Network. He envisioned a network of computers around the world, interconnected and set up to allow users to access data from any site. As far-fetched as the idea must have sounded to his contemporaries, it's clear now that Licklider foreshadowed one of the most consequential technologies in human history—the internet.

    Licklider's idea came to fruition, not in the 1990s, but in 1969, just seven years after he wrote his memos. That year, UCLA was selected as the host site of the first node on ARPANET, a primitive predecessor to the modern internet. ARPANET was the first network to use packet switching instead of circuit switching to enable machine-to-machine communication. Licklider now holds a spot in the Internet Hall of Fame and is hailed as one of the most important and celebrated computer scientists in history.

    Fast-forward exactly half a century and the internet impacts nearly every aspect of American life. It's revolutionized how we communicate, learn, share information, watch TV, eat, shop, and consume news and other media. It's changed how we cook, how we read, how we do business, how we bank, and how we complain. The four biggest companies on the S&P 500 are Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook.

    Binary code, which represents computer processor instructions and encodes data, consists of only two numbers: 0 and 1. The numbers that tell the tale of how the internet impacts modern American life, however, are far more varied. The size, reach, and influence of the internet can be quantified through numbers that describe just how deeply the invisible but vital connectivity penetrates every aspect of our daily lives.

    Here's a look at the numbers that define the many ways the internet impacts American society.

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  • 293 million Americans use the internet

    About 327 million people live in the United States. Of them, 293 million are now internet users, according to a report from Statista. There are 4.4 billion connected people in the world as a whole.

  • 10% of the world's internet users are in the U.S.

    America represents a disproportionate percentage of the world's online community. Although the United States is home to only 4% of the world's population, 10% of global internet users are American, reports the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

  • 73% of adults have home broadband

    America's internet service providers have made huge gains in wiring people's homes for broadband, according to the Pew Research Center. In 2000, just 1% of the adults had home broadband, but just a decade later in 2010, that number jumped to 64%. In the 2010s, however, that progress flattened out, and today, 73% of adults have home broadband—racial minorities, rural residents, the less affluent, and the undereducated are the most underserved groups.

  • 1.6 billion unique monthly visitors use Google

    Google is the most popular website in the world, boasting 1.6 billion unique monthly visitors. To put that in perspective, only two other websites claim 10-figure monthly visitors. One is Facebook and the other is YouTube, which is owned by Google.

  • 90.1% of the total search engine market is held by Google

    The name Google has been synonymous with looking things up online since the late 1990s. Today, no rival can come close to competing with the internet search giant. Google owns more than 90% of the search engine market.

  • 31.2 million bloggers produce content in America

    Blogs are part of the modern American experience. Statista reports that more than 31 million bloggers churn out the content that America reads, watches, shares, likes, and gripes about in the comments sections.

  • 73% of Americans use YouTube

    On April 23, 2005, an 18-second video clip titled "Me at the Zoo" debuted on a new platform that would forever change the way people consumed and delivered media. That platform was YouTube, and today, Pew notes that 73% of the country uses it—that's more than any other social network.

  • 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute

    The average person could spend an entire lifetime watching just the amount of video uploaded to YouTube in a single day—literally. YouTube gains 500 hours of new video every minute—that's 82.2 years worth every 24 hours.

  • 69% of the country is on Facebook

    Although YouTube is the most popular social network, it doesn't truly qualify as social media in the traditional sense. The true king of social media is still Facebook, which counts more than two out of three Americans among its subscriber base. No other network comes close, with second-place Instagram capturing only 37%.

  • 2.2 billion fake accounts deleted by Facebook in 3 months

    The 2016 election and the Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed just how easily shady players, dishonest brokers, and even foreign agents could infiltrate and influence American discourse and politics. Embroiled in scandal, Facebook revealed the sheer size of the problem was when it took down more than 2 billion fake accounts between January and March of 2019.

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