One of the most strongly-held beliefs in the internet community is that Europe is falling behind other countries or regions, especially the United States or Asia, when it comes to internet use. This may be true, or not, but do bear in mind that if you let this belief stop you, you may find yourself missing out on European internet-based business opportunities.
Europeans and the Internet
One of the most tossed-about statistics of internet usage is the ‘percentage of penetration’ or the percentage of the population which have access to the internet. Under this definition, North America (covering the United States and Canada) leads the pack with almost 70 percent of the population having access or using the internet, which is nearly double that of Europe’s 39 percent internet penetration.
What is often overlooked, however, is the actual numbers that these percentages represent. North America’s 70 percent internet usage may seem huge, but it applies to a population of 335 million people and thereby translates to 232 million internet users. Europe’s 39 percent penetration, on the other hand, applies to a population of 809 million (more than double that of North America) which means that there are around 313 million Europeans who use the internet. Simply put, there are 81 million more Europeans than North Americans who use the internet.
Admittedly, however, Europeans may seem to be more backward than North Americans in the uses they make of the internet, but this may be more a function of available technology than anything else. Recent studies show that in one week, Europeans spend an average of four hours in the internet, while Americans typically spend around triple that amount of time.
Observers note, however, that this may be due to the fact that broadband connections are more widespread in the United States than in Europe; Europeans with broadband connections spend some seven hours a week surfing, compared to their counterparts with dialup connections who allocate two hours a week on the internet.
These same observers point out, however, that the situation will change rapidly, as European broadband connectivity increases and more people get online. This implies a market larger than North America.
Web Hosting Opportunities in Europe
The large European internet market potential opens up a wide range of opportunities for web hosting enterprises, especially those with knowledge or expertise in the nuances of e-commerce.
A few years ago, most of the European web hosting enterprises were primarily ISPs (Internet Service Providers) or operators of public telephony services. In effect, the primary web hosting model used in Europe was co-location (which offers only data ‘space’ and assured internet connectivity) as opposed to the hosting model where the web hosting provider is responsible for supplying the servers as well as managing these on behalf of customers.
The latter web hosting model is the most conducive model in e-commerce activities, with the web host offering not only space and connectivity but also insights on design and layouts, web marketing and advertising, search engine optimization, and even e-commerce software.
Web hosting in Europe faces its own unique challenges, however, most especially the diversity of countries, languages and cultures in the region, to say nothing of the different economies (ranging from developed nations like Britain, France and Germany to the ’emerging economies’ of Latvia, Slovenia and Estonia.