What Europeans do at Night
The New York Times recently had an interesting piece on the changing daily Internet usage patterns in the US. The basic gist of the article was Americans are using the Internet more than in the past and starting to twitter / surf / email much earlier in the day.
Which made us wonder if Europeans are any different?
It turns out — yes.
We took a look using the Internet Observatory at daily traffic through roughly 40 North American and 25 European consumer / regional providers (taking the average of 10 weekdays in July).
We graph the daily average of European and North American Internet traffic below. To make the graph more readable, we show both European and US traffic as a percentage of their respective peak traffic levels (i.e. 100% is the respective peak of each Europe and US traffic). All times are EDT. The yellow shaded area represents daylight hours in Europe and the US.
As expected, both Europe and US Internet traffic have a lot in common. Both show regular, daily cyclical traffic patterns with Internet traffic dropping at night and growing during the day.
Also expected, we see the two graph lines offset by their roughly 5 hour timezone differences, i.e. European traffic bottoms out at 12am EDT / 5am BST / 6am CEST followed by US traffic reaching its low at 5am EDT.
But what is really interesting is how the daily US and Europe Internet traffic trends differ.
To make some of these differences more obvious, we show European and North American traffic on a single daily timeline. In other words, 5am for European is 5am GMT and 5am for the US is 5am EDT.
Even after we account for the multiple time zones in both Europe (3 if we exclude Russia) and the US (4 if we exclude Halifax and Alaska), European traffic really is different.
- We all share the same morning and evening Internet addiction: On average, European traffic starts picking up around 5am GMT / 7 am CEST and similarly US traffic takes off around the same time at 7am EDT. Internet traffic also reaches its peaks in the early evening (7pm GMT / 9pm CEST in Europe and 10pm EDT / 7 pm PDT in the US).
- North American’s don’t surf over dinner: Unlike European traffic, US daily Internet percentages take a small dip in the early evening between 6pm and 10pm EDT. In contrast, Europe traffic keeps climbing through the evening until a marked 9pm GMT / 11pm CEST drop off. Of course, Europeans tend towards later (and longer) dinner hours than their North American counterparts.
- What Europeans do at night: Actually, this bullet point should be what Europeans don’t do at night — spend a lot of time on the Internet. In contrast to North America, European traffic plummets much more steeply and reaches a lower daily minimum than US traffic (US traffic never drops below 50% whereas Europe declines more more than 60% from its peak). Apparently, North American Internet users stay up later and use the Internet longer (next blog post we’ll explore what they’re doing on the Internet late at night).
Editor’s Note: This blog is the first in a series of weekly (or more likely semimonthly) posts leading up to the publication of the joint University of Michigan, Merit Network and Arbor Networks “2009 Internet Observatory Report”. The full technical reports goes into detail on the evolving Internet topology, commercial ecosystem and traffic patterns — available this October.