Mary Meeker on the future of the internet: 9 things to know

31 May 2018

Mary Meeker. Image: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

Mary Meeker delivered her annual internet trends report at Recode’s Code Conference, touching on everything from e-commerce to the ‘privacy paradox’ facing big tech firms.

Mary Meeker, venture capitalist and partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has been compiling an extensive report on the state of the internet for the past 23 years.

The 2018 edition launched at Recode’s Code Conference on Wednesday (30 May).

Meeker’s main points

The privacy paradox

With an increasing focus on data protection in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the rise in data breaches, and regulations such as GDPR coming into force, companies are facing a dilemma in terms of using data to improve their products but potentially invading the privacy of consumers. Users in China are more likely to share data for benefits versus other countries by a wide margin, according to Meeker.

She said: “Well, it’s crucial to manage for unintended consequences. It’s also irresponsible to stop innovation and progress, especially in a world where there are a lot of countries that are doing different things.”

Healthcare sees an increase in spend

Meeker said that more consumers are spending on healthcare, such as digital healthcare management and femtech. She queried: “Will market forces finally come to healthcare and drive prices lower for consumers?”

Smartphone sales slowing

According to Meeker, global new smartphone shipments had 0pc growth in 2017, versus 2pc in 2016, and internet user growth is slowing. Thanks to cheaper Android phones and broader availability of Wi-Fi, there are now 3.6bn people in the world with access to the internet as of 2018. The global average selling price of smartphones is also dropping.

People are spending more time online

Despite the flat smartphone market and slowing of internet user growth, people are spending more time on the internet.

US adults spent 5.9 hours on digital media per day in 2017, up from 5.6pc in 2016. 3.3 of these hours were spent on mobile devices, which are a key driver for the overall increase in digital media consumption.

Mobile payments are becoming simpler

Digital payments are taking off in a big way, as China leads the charge in mobile payment adoption around the world.

Voice assistants are more popular

Despite privacy concerns from some, it doesn’t look like voice assistants will go away any time soon. According to Meeker, the Amazon Echo’s user base grew from 20m in Q3 of 2017 to 30m in Q4 of the same year.

E-commerce is booming

Online shopping growth is continuing to accelerate, said Meeker. It grew by 16pc in the US last year and Amazon took 28pc of the total of that figure.

Self-employed workers are continuously upskilling

According to Meeker, more than 50pc of freelancers updated their skills within the last six months, compared to 30pc for those in staff jobs. “Lifelong learning is crucial in the evolving work environment; the tools are getting better and more accessible. Coursera has 33m learners, up 30pc year on year.”

China is making gains

China is now home to nine of the 20 largest internet companies in the world by market cap – five years ago, it had just two.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects