John Carr, a member of the UK Council on Child Internet Safety:
Amazing statistics emerged last week courtesy of a body called WARC which presents itself as Your global authority on advertising and media effectiveness.
WARC was publicising a study carried out by Verto Analytics according to which, between them, Google and Facebook account for 25% of all of the time spent online by adult UK internet users. One might imagine the proportion in respect of children was likely to be higher but there is no information on that point.
In this context Google was represented by search, Gmail and YouTube. They took one in six (17%) of every UK minute. This amounted to the equivalent of 42.7 million days per month.
I haven’t found Verto’s study so I’m not sure what methodology they used to measure time spent on different websites. Even so, these are staggering numbers. I imagine the proportion of time spent on Google and Facebook properties would be similar in Canada, for example, and I suspect the proportion of internet traffic that travels — in some way — through infrastructure controlled by American companies would be far higher. The images on
bbc.com, for example, are served from the
ichef.bbci.co.uk domain, which is pointed to an Akamai server — Akamai is based in Massachusetts. Even the British government’s website isn’t immune: it serves images from
assets.publishing.service.gov.uk, which is pointed to Fastly, based in San Francisco.
As I wrote yesterday, I see an inherent danger in having so much of our web in the hands of relatively few, very large American firms, for two main reasons: first, the lack of competition gives these companies outsized and largely-unaccountable power; and, second, they’re governed by American laws. There’s nothing inherently wrong with laws being American, of course, but the 2013 revelations of NSA spying, fears about what a Donald Trump presidency would mean for technology companies, freedom of speech questions with regard to neo-Nazis, and a failure to meaningfully regulate mega-mergers are all warnings about what it means to put the ostensibly World Wide Web in largely American hands — or, indeed, in the hands of any one country.