The end of the American internet

This post is by Benedict Evans from Essays – Benedict Evans

When Netscape launched in 1994 and kicked off the consumer internet, there were maybe 100m PCs on earth, and over half of them were in the USA. The web was invented in Switzerland, and computers were invented in the UK, but the internet was American. American companies set the agenda and created most of the important products and services, and American attitudes, cultures and laws around regulation and speech dominated.

This is not quite so true anymore. 80-90% of internet users are now outside the USA, there are more smartphone users in China than in the USA and western Europe combined, and the creation of venture-based startups has gone global.

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Meanwhile, of course, the internet became vastly more important. In the last decade it has gone from being interesting and exciting but not really an important part of most people’s lives to being a central part of society. This is my favorite way to illustrate this – by 2017, almost half of new (straight) relationships in the USA started online.

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This has two pretty basic sets of consequences.

First, as I discussed in some detail here, technology is becoming a regulated industry, if only because important and specialised industries are always regulated. That regulation will not only be determined by the USA. Other countries have their own laws, cultures and constitutions, and so we are entering a period of increasing regulatory expansion, overlap and competition from different jurisdictions, from the EU and UK to Singapore or Australia and, of (Read more…)