According to a report released today by Ipsos Insights, downloading music files (which was sparked by Napster and similar peer-to-peer file sharing sites like Limewire.) showed millions of users that the Internet was not just a cool idea, but actually useful.

Then there was the great Dark Time (or the Great Correction, depending on your perspective). The Web 1.0 bubble popped and startups went under by the score. However, behind the scenes broadband kept up it’s slow creep across the continent, almost unnoticed, as service providers upgraded their networks. Before we knew it (and before most of us even needed it) we had affordable, high-speed Internet.

Fast forward to 2007, when (according to recent stats from Ipsos)

  • well over one-third of recent Internet users (36%) have watched a TV show or other video stream online (3/4 of those had done so in the last 30 days, indicating a possible big jump in numbers next time they’re surveyed)
  • 13% have downloaded a TV show
  • Ditto for feature-length movies
  • Some of the most interesting numbers show that streaming music dropped a point between 2005 and 2006, as did downloading music. Copying a CD remained static at 41%. I’m not sure if the music industry should be happy or concerned at the slight downturn in activity (based on the first stat – possibly interest).

    One caveat – this study, called The Face of the Web 2006, surveyed 6,553 adults in 12 global markets between November and December 2006. So while it’s interesting to know what people were doing online six months ago, extrapolating these numbers to today is impossible. Things tend to happen in crazy, unexpected, leaps and bounds online. Look at Twitter.

    Social networking is, not surprisingly, on the rise, with 24% of American adults having visited one of these sites. Internationally, it’s massive in some parts of Asia – with almost 50% of all the adults in Korea having visited a social networking site at one point. Success is attributed in part to Cywold, which is one of the oldest social networking sites in the world.

    Here’s a nice bit of analysis from Brian Cruikshank, Executive Vice President & Managing Director of Ipsos Insight’s Technology & Communications practice,

    The frequency of visitation to social networking websites globally implies that many Internet users are no longer simply ‘trying out’ these sites, but rather adopting social-networking as a significant part in their evolving digital lifestyle. What will be interesting to monitor is the affect social networking will have on other online and offline entertainment behaviors that ultimately compete for a share of the consumer’s disposable time. We have already seen some effects of social networking cannibalizing other online activities in some markets.

    And, finally, the requisite chart. I was surprised to see that Canada lagged so far behind the U.S.