Internet use: A tangled web

THE internet looks like an adman’s dream. Counting how many times an advert on a bus shelter has been viewed is impossible; counting clicks on a blinking banner ad is a doddle. But knowing where each click came from, and how many people are clicking, is harder than it appears.Firms dedicated to click-counting put code on websites that reports the times, origins and frequencies of visits, or get consumers to install it buried in browser plug-ins or mobile apps. These record web-users’ digital calling-cards: the internet-protocol (IP) addresses of the devices they are using. But to assume that each IP address represents a single user in its country of registration is a wild oversimplification.A new report published on November 4th takes a different approach. GlobalWebIndex (GWI), a market-research firm with local partners in 32 countries, surveys 170,000 consumers a year and recently began to ask detailed questions about internet use. It puts China and India in the top three for Facebook users. SimilarWeb, which does IP-based analysis, does not even put China in the top ten (see maps).One reason for the difference is that in many developing markets…

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