Under-25s ditch chatrooms for SMS

It seems the Internet is just passe among young Europeans, who are deserting PC-based peer-to-peer applications for their mobile phones

Mobile phone usage is growing faster than Internet usage in Europe's four largest countries among adults, according to research presented by GartnerG2 on Wednesday.

The percentage of all adults who use a mobile phone grew between 5 and 10 percent across the UK, France, Germany and Italy in Q2, 2002. Internet usage via a PC only grew by between 1 and 2 percent on average across the four countries -- in the UK it didn't grow at all, said GartnerG2.

"This is a really shocking result in a lot of ways. It is shocking for governments who are assuming they can deliver e-government services through the Internet. It's shocking for any business whose business case is based on consumers' use of the Internet via a PC. It's shocking for conventional wisdom," said GartnerG2's Adam Daum. The research blows a hole in the conventional wisdom was that younger generation would take to the Internet the fastest and drive future growth.

The figures for Internet usage in the US and Scandinavia are up in the 60 and 70 percent mark, yet GartnerG2's latest research suggests "that here, in the four major European countries, Internet use appears to be saturating at around 30 percent of adults," said Daum

GartnerG2's explaination for the slowing growth is due to a difference in popularity of the Internet between the generations. Although middle-aged people are continuing to take to the Internet, the popularity of mobile devices and SMS is eclipsing Internet usage among young Europeans aged 15 to 25. "The use of the Internet actually fell among younger people. So again this is a complete shock to conventional wisdom. The young people are the future, as they grow up their patterns of behaviour will become patterns of the general population," said Daum.

Daum believes that a key reason for the drop in popularity of the Internet among young Europeans is that it has lost some of its main attractions. Free MP3 files from Napster, ringtones and icons for mobile phones are less available now. "A lot of those services have gone bust or have been sued out of existence, or have started charging... so as a young person the Internet has got worse in terms of what you want to do with it," Daum said.

Young Europeans are using text messaging intensively, with text messaging replacing Internet-based chat and email as the primary peer-to-peer communications medium. For Europeans under 25 the mobile phone is regarded as more important to their lives than the Internet. "SMS has grown rapidly and the Internet has barely grown at all. More people use SMS than email or any other Internet application in Europe's four most populous countries," said Daum.

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