Big Data Isn’t Just a Product of the Internet, It Is the “New Internet

Mary Meeker, of Kleiner Perkins Claufield & Byers, released her annual “Internet Trends” report this week to the accolades of anyone who uses the web to make a living. In other words, it was this week’s top trending topic on Google, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Mary Meeker, of Kleiner Perkins Claufield & Byers, released her annual “Internet Trends” report this week to the accolades of anyone who uses the web to make a living. In other words, it was this week’s top trending topic on Google, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

To give a bit of background, Meeker has been publishing a typically more than 150-page long report on the state of the Internet since 2001, monitoring the use of digital ads on the web and on mobile devices, the biggest tech companies in the game, the adoption of the Internet across the globe and more. In all, her report serves as the annual benchmark of where we are in terms of our digital intelligence and how much better we could be (read: where the monetary opportunities lie).

And since 2001, Meeker has been pointing to a huge shift in digital usage: from desktop to mobile. In the 13 years since her first report, her predictions have come to fruition, but the ad dollars have not followed the impressions. In her 2014 report, she sites mobile ad spend as a $30 billion+ opportunity in the U.S. alone, a  large monetary opportunity that has hardly reduced from reports of the past. 

Yet, despite marketers and advertisers spending their budgets elsewhere, consumer mobile usage isn’t slowing down. Today, mobile traffic accounts for 15% of all Internet traffic. In 2009, it accounted for less than 1%. According to Meeker, by this time next year, mobile Internet traffic will account for 25% of global Internet traffic — and it has already outpaced desktop in countries like China. 

Mobile: A Cookie-Free Zone

Yet, it isn’t only the mobile web accounting for our boom in mobile Internet usage. After all, browsers like Safari or Chrome are merely two apps in a sea of mobile apps available for mobile consumers. Instead, it is the popularity of apps in general, specifically social media apps, that are the driving force behind such high usage of mobile Internet. 

What’s more is that these apps, unlike the web we once knew, are cookie-free zones, meaning brands cannot track users across different app uses. Instead, brands can only collect data on what users are doing in their own apps. For brands using Internet ads to better target an audience, this lack of insight is likely the source of uncertainty driving the lack of mobile ad spend.

Better yet, couple that thought with this: according to Meeker’s 2014 report, 34% of data in the digital universe is useful, but only 7% of it is tagged and only 1% of it is analyzed. The majority of that useful data is created by consumers themselves, typically through social media posts and photos – platforms on which mobile usage is already higher than or on par with desktop. 

As the Internet of Things heats up and wearable tech, in-house devices like Nest and self-driving cars begin to collect offline data about our lives separate, but relevant, to the online identity data we provide through profiles and online purchases, the percentage of “useful” data available will increase. And it will be via mobile devices that it does. 

Indeed, while the big data industry has certainly provided a treasure trove of batch computing capabilities that allow for the storage of massive amounts of data (looking at you Hadoop), there has yet to be much movement on the front of turning massive collection into profitable action. Worse, where there does seem to be a bit of innovation, it comes in the form of “dashboards,” many of which serve up analytics that do not provide the type of actionable tasks that make a platform sticky for a marketing or ad-ops team.

Big Data: What Have You Done For Me?

See, big data, especially where mobile is concerned, has become what the Internet was 10 years ago: a place where everyone sees potential, of which few know how to extrapolate. And if Mary Meeker is any sort of Internet trend Nostradamus, as she has proven herself to indeed be, the search for, collection of and speed of actionability on useful on and offline data is about to takeover as the most important aspect of the world wide web. 

Say so-long to cookies, sayonara to banner ads, hasta luego to overly priced and static print ads. Instead, welcome the age of a customized Internet, no matter where or how you use it. In this $30 billion market of mobile ad spend, the brands that are able to utilize data not merely for the hype, but for the ROI, will see not just an increase in profits, but also a new asset hit their balance sheets. 

The Internet disrupted everything about how we led our lives. It showed us our common humanity – sometimes for the better (like when all of San Francisco came together to recreate Gotham for a little boy), sometimes for the mundane (cat videos on cat memes on cat listicles containing both), sometimes for the worse (trolls, enough said). And big data will do the same. We’ve only yet to see exactly how big data will affect every inch of our lives, but we do know, as does Mary Meeker, that the time to collect and activate is now. 

“People enabled with mobile devices and sensors [are] uploading troves of findable and shareable data,” wrote Meeker. “[It’s] still early, and rapidly evolving.”