Facebook = Internet?

Posted on May 17, 2012  /  2 Comments

Few months back, our COO Helani Galpaya was out in the field in Indonesia, doing qualitative interviews with BOP teleusers. She picked up an odd response pattern: negative answers to questions about Internet use that would lead us to conclude the respondent was not an Internet user but claims that they were using Facebook on the mobile. So it seemed that in their minds, the Internet did not exist; only Facebook. This is the gist of the argument in Wired:

Today, after just eight years in existence, Facebook now has more than 750 million users all by itself. At that astonishing rate of growth, the company is on track to accomplish much more than just a multibillion-dollar IPO. Facebook is on the cusp of becoming a medium unto itself—more akin to television as a whole than a single network, and more like the entire web than just one online destination. The evidence for that transformation goes well beyond the sheer number of users. Many businesses now bypass the traditional web altogether, limiting their online presence to Facebook. Already the platform has spawned one billion-dollar company (the social gaming giant Zynga) and swallowed another (the photo network Instagram). The average time people spend on the site has increased from four and a half hours per month in 2009 to nearly seven hours—more than twice that of any major web competitor.


  1. I am not surprised if you find similar responses from youngsters for lower middle class families. They use second hand 3G handsets to watch Youtube videos and visit FB. Given there is limited local language content it is surprising their internet usage is restricted to YT and FB.

  2. That’s quite interesting. This finding is an example of how important it is that survey questions are formulated and structured in such a way to best aids respondents’ understanding of it. E.g. questions about specific uses of services that require Internet connectivity (such as Facebook, etc) may be a more accurate gauge of internet use (although the finding that respondents are not aware of the term “Internet” is useful in itself as well).