This week: don’t believe the hype – the surprising truth about what is really going on online, with our expert Simon Kemp.

Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Futures Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.

Our guest this week

Simon Kemp, Founder and CEO of Kepios

The stories this week

00:57 – All the numbers you need – the latest Global Digital Report

Our previous episodes with Simon on the state of digital and digital analytics

The Unlearn Project on how TikTok is changing the way we engage with music

The Reuters Institute’s 2022 Digital News Report

Our previous discussion on Instagram’s backtracked changes

How to understand the TikTok algorithm, a video series by the Wall Street Journal

The latest quarterly report on NFTs from nonfungible.com

Our previous discussion on NFTs and digital assets

Crypto.com’s latest research roundup on the crypto market


Follow the show on Apple PodcastsSpotifyOvercastGoogle PodcastsPocket Casts or wherever you get your podcasts. You can follow Sydney Business Insights on Flipboard, LinkedInTwitter and WeChat to keep updated with our latest insights.

Send us your news ideas to sbi@sydney.edu.au.

Music by Cinephonix.

Disclaimer We'd like to advise that the following program may contain real news, occasional philosophy and ideas that may offend some listeners.

Sandra So around this time of the year, we always start thinking like, what is happening on the internet? There's all these weird things people are doing on the internet. And as always, the truth is actually even more surprising than we could have guessed.

Kai Yeah, if only there was an expert or a report or something we could draw on, right?

Sandra So, um, maybe we should get Simon back.

Kai Well, he's in town for DISRUPT.SYDNEY, so we should talk to him. Oh, wait, there he is.

Simon Kemp Hello.

Kai Hello.

Intro From The University of Sydney Business School, this is Sydney Business Insights, an initiative that explores the future of business. And you're listening to The Future, This Week, where Sandra Peter and Kai Riemer sit down every week to rethink trends in technology and business.

Kai Hello Simon. Good to have you.

Simon Kemp Thank you for having me back. This is becoming a little bit of a regular thing. It's good.

Sandra It is most excellent. So as every year, you're the person who knows what people do on the internet, you've got a huge report coming out every year. And every year you find out new surprising things.

Simon Kemp Yeah.

Sandra What's going on this time around?

Simon Kemp There's a lot going on. So the report actually updates every quarter. Hence why I seem to have this ever ending series of trivia stat points and data bytes that we can talk about. So I am really this nerdy, but we do probably slightly more than every year, which is a good thing from a data lovers perspective. So yeah, we've got a whole bunch of things that are coming through in the ever-evolving data that we track on consumer behaviours on the internet around the world.

Sandra People always think they know exactly what people are doing with Facebook, and TikTok, like people just know this stuff.

Simon Kemp Because it's in the headlines all the time, right, 'Facebook is dying!', proclaims the media everywhere. And, you know, I think if you look around, the kinds of people that are listening to this podcast, good chance that they themselves are using less Facebook than they did a few years ago, their kids don't use it, because that's the kind of demographic that we're in. But the data shows, and various data points not just one or two, Facebook is bigger than ever. People may not be using it as long each day as they used to. And they may be using it for different things. But the number of people using Facebook is almost bigger than it ever has been, you know, Facebook continues to grow on almost every sort of metric that you look at. And there is no evidence to back up this idea that Facebook is dying

Kai Is it growing across the world or is it in...?

Simon Kemp So there's little pockets. So the ever-favourite story is that the kids are leaving Facebook and teens are abandoning and choose your nice little hyper-superlative, if you like, in terms of describing what's going on. In the US some recent research from the guys at Pew who are incredibly reputable. And if you're looking for independent research, then Pew is one of the places you want to go. They did a recent study of technology amongst teens across the US, and that clearly showed that teens are using Facebook less than they used to. But then you look at other data points and it doesn't tell you that story. And I think if you ask the average teen, across most Western markets in particular, 'do you use Facebook?', their immediate knee jerk reaction is 'no!". But then when you actually start digging in, and you say so have you used Facebook for this in the past month? Oh, yeah. Did that. And oh, yeah, did that. So they are using it, but they're not using it for fun or sexy thing. So, many kids around...

Sandra What are they using it for?

Simon Kemp Do you know weirdly, a lot of schools still use Facebook for coordinating average bits and pieces. So you might need to coordinate a school project. And you might need to coordinate that with your classmates on Facebook, I can't get my head around why that's become the thing. But Facebook is used for an awful lot of logistical. So Facebook is for teens today what email was for teens 20 years ago, in my mind, that's not a statistical, verbatim truth, but it's the occupying mind space and emotional territory. So yeah, I kind of feel like Facebook is a utility rather than a sexy social platform.

Sandra So what's the sexy social platform?

Simon Kemp So there are a few different ones. And it depends on how you define sexy. So I think everybody will be expecting TikTok to be the obvious answer for that. TikTok has been growing incredibly fast. So we've now got more than a billion adults. So people over the age of 18 using TikTok every month, and that's around the world again. Where that comes through sort of more strongly as places like the Middle East. So it's really interesting to see levels of adoption in places like Saudi Arabia are really high. The Middle East is actually, it's got some really interesting trends in terms of various social platforms. So use of things like Snapchat really high in the Middle East as well. Use of Twitter really high in the Middle East, compared to other places in the world. So if you're looking at unique behaviours, if you like, in social, the Middle East is a really interesting place to look. But yeah, going back to those, the kids, the teenagers, TikTok is big, but actually the stat that surprised me, and considering that I spent all my time looking at this data, like when I get a surprise, it's always like, right, this is a story I want to tell everybody so never sit next to me at a dinner party. But the one that really surprised me recently is data from GWI who do an ongoing survey of internet users right the way around the world, we're talking hundreds of 1000s of respondents every quarter for this survey. So it's huge. They've discovered that amongst males 16 to 64 year olds, Telegram is bigger than TikTok, in terms of the number of people using it. That blew my mind. Telegram feels like this stealth messenger platform that you hear about when it comes to certain concerns about privacy for journalists and stuff. But actually, the kids are using it a lot, mostly male. So it's very sort of skewed towards male users amongst that demographic,

Sandra Telegram.

Simon Kemp Telegram, the messenger platform.

Kai Do we know why?

Simon Kemp So a couple of different things here, it's big for gaming. So actually, when it comes to gaming, you've got things like Discord, which is sort of perhaps more well known, but actually, telegram is huge amongst the gaming communities. It's also very big amongst crypto nerds. Not quite sure that that is the 16 to 24 demographic, but then again...

Kai It's a big bracket.

Simon Kemp It is to be fair, yeah. So NFTs, crypto, especially people that are speculating about what the next big opportunity for making quick money is, which is probably really big amongst that demographic. Yeah, so Telegram is big for a few different things in there. So before I really started digging into this, I did the same thing that most people do you have your assumptions about what our platform represents, and you don't challenge that until something comes along to upset your perceptions. So I kind of felt like Telegram was going to be big amongst the privacy buffs, the journalistic community, all that kind of stuff. And in reality, it's, it's much, much bigger than that. That's not to say these people don't use it. But it's much bigger, especially amongst the gamers.

Sandra I just want to get back for a second to TikTok. Because TikTok is, much like Facebook, another one of these platforms where people think they know everything there is to know about what people do with TikTok, and on TikTok.

Kai There's this concern that you know, too many people are using it. So it's in the news a lot at the moment, is it as big a deal as people are making it out to be?

Simon Kemp So many ways we can unpack this. Sandra, to your question, why are people using it. When you ask people around the world, so again, this is GWI survey, so that huge broad global survey, the number one reason for using TikTok is to find funny and entertaining content. Now that shouldn't come as a surprise. But it then begs the question, is TikTok a social platform? Or is it more akin to a Netflix? So where it fits in the users world is a very interesting question. This is an entertainment platform. We're not going there to chat with friends and family. Really, that's not the main reason you open up TikTok, because I want to have a chat. Because you've got Telegram, for example, you've got options to do that more sophisticated conversations. So TikTok is an entertainment channel, people are spending a lot of time on there. So depending on which source you're looking at, I tend to use data.ai research for time spent simply because I know their system more than any other, because I respect it and trust it. They're saying roughly a day per month. So 24 hours, close to, of time spent using TikTok per user on average. So 24 hours a month is fairly substantial. If you think about it, once you allow for sleeping time, that's more than a day of our waking lives spent consuming short videos on TikTok.

Kai On average.

Simon Kemp That's only people who use it.

Kai So of the ones who use it, that's the average.

Simon Kemp Correct. So you'll get people that use it for a minute a day. And you'll get people that are spending three or four hours a day on it. But nonetheless. So TikTok is now in terms of the apps that are categorised as social media, I think increasingly, it's not a social platform. But let's leave it in that bucket for now. Amongst social platforms, which would include WhatsApp and Facebook and Instagram, TikTok commands the highest average time per user. So the 23.6 hours per user I think it is for TikTok actually, when you then look at Facebook at 19 point something hours, that's still really high for Facebook, considering that "Facebook is dying", he says, putting air quotes in for the benefits of listeners at home. So Facebook still commands a very high amount of time as well. But TikTok is the highest ranking in terms of average.

Sandra You said entertainment, and it's more akin to Netflix. How about news? We heard a lot about, like, young people getting their political news for instance on Tik Tok. Any truth to that?

Simon Kemp Yes, the most recent digital news report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of journalism, fantastic report for anybody who wants to understand online news behaviours. They're reporting that amongst younger demographics, I think there's is 18 to 24, they're saying 15% of that demographic say they have consumed news content on TikTok in the last week, which is pretty high. It's not nearly as high as something like Facebook would be across everything. So Facebook is still the first social platform people will go to for news. I don't remember the exact stat. But I think it's something like 40% of the total population 18 to 64 uses Facebook for news,

Kai Which is scary.

Simon Kemp Yeah, this is the interesting thing. Is it scary? Or is it just a reflection of where we got to? I think, you know, for people that really value balanced journalism, and are willing to go and look for a comprehensive analysis of current affairs, then that's definitely going to be unsettling. But I'm not convinced this as a massive evolution compared to what people used to do.

Kai But those platforms, both Facebook and TikTok, are very algorithmically driven in the sense that you are not necessarily actively choosing your media diet, your news diet.

Simon Kemp Correct.

Kai This is being decided by algorithms that optimise for something that is not necessarily transparent to you.

Simon Kemp Yeah, true. I am of the same opinion as you. I'm worried about where this is headed in terms of what it means for the kinds of content we get delivered, both news and other kinds of things. But if you look around the world where the majority of the population gets its news, 30/40 years ago, it was getting it from tabloid newspapers. How different is TikTok, in terms of the depth of journalistic sophistication? I don't mean that judgmentally.

Kai But I think it's more public, it's more transparent. Everyone can see what the tabloid newspaper is publishing that day. Whereas it's very hard to scrutinise what users are getting presented on a platform like TikTok, because it's so highly algorithmically, individualised.

Simon Kemp Yeah. So let's look at the algorithm for TikTok. Because what makes TikTok so different to any other social platform out there is the way that that algorithm decides what to show you. So on a platform like Facebook, and even on Instagram, it's decided by your social graph, i.e. the people that you have...

Kai Not necessarily anymore. It's increasingly algorithmically driven today say that Instagram has just announced that they are putting more emphasis on the algorithm making it more like Facebook or TikTok, right.

Simon Kemp And then they backtracked on that.

Kai Well, temporarily, well, the genie is out of the bottle, I think the drift's towards algorithmically curated newsfeeds.

Simon Kemp Yes, okay so let me re-qualify that statement. Historically, Meta's platforms have been driven by your social group, so the people that you chose to follow, whereas the reason why they're suddenly panicking is TikTok's algorithm is clearly delivering something that appeals to users. And that algorithm has always been based on what is popular for people like you. I don't know how it determines people like you, but it does it really quickly. So within a couple of minutes of using the app, it knows where to bucket you. That in itself, it fascinates me, it concerns me, but then again...

Sandra I think there was an article, I think it was in the Wall Street Journal trying to figure out what they take into account, and they seem to be using for the algorithm, not the usual things that you would use such as, you know, person's location and their gender.

Simon Kemp Yeah.

Sandra And other things, but...

Kai What Facebook would be using because they have the social graph and things like that.

Sandra But it will be things like just how long do you spend on clips, and what clips.

Simon Kemp How do you shuffle them?

Kai It's probably 100% user behaviour.

Simon Kemp I would hope so. But then, you know, it's interesting, because ByteDance, which owns TikTok, also has a bunch of news apps in China. And the algorithm that powers TikTok's video delivery system was actually built, or an evolution of, purely a news app for people in China. It's really interesting that it's building out of that news world, but it's now using it to deliver clips of people dancing, and all the other stuff that you see on TikTok. So it's clear that there are very consistent similarities in the way we behave online, regardless of what kind of content we're engaging with.

Sandra Yeah.

Simon Kemp How do you touch your device? How do you hold it? What orientation? All these like, it's much more user behaviour rather than demographic.

Sandra Again, what I'm hearing you say is that TikTok is then more like an entertainment platform and social media, both in terms of what it delivers to users, whether it's fun or news, but also in terms of the algorithm that powers it.

Kai Can I just ask, I mean, part of social media is the fact that we're interacting in the sense that we're not just consuming, we're also posting. So do we know what the proportion of users on TikTok is who merely consumed but never actually post videos, what's the ratios there, do we know this?

Simon Kemp There are quite a lot of different data points, and they vary quite wildly. So I'm going to go back to my trusted GWI source here. So when they asked their user base, which is again, that 16 to 64 cohort, how often they upload their own content, it's quite low on TikTok, it's only about one in three roughly, users say that they actually upload their own content, which is significantly lower than, say, an Instagram.

Kai So for two thirds, it's then nearly like a short form YouTube, or like a TV channel, as you said, like a Netflix kind of, really just consume.

Simon Kemp I would guess that ByteDance has a slightly different take on that data, I suppose asking people whether that's what they go to the platform for, versus whether they've uploaded one piece of content, you know, there's always different ways to cut these metrics.

Kai It makes it less a social platform, then though, if people consume but not upload, and they're not really being social, in the sense of, you know, a Facebook or a Messenger app where everything is kind of reciprocal in the sense that you're not just reading what other people are writing.

Simon Kemp You raise a critical point Kai there. We've got to stop thinking about social media as this one big singular thing. So on average, the typical social media user uses seven and a half different social platforms every month. So we're using Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, WhatsApp, Telegram, the list continues. And obviously, where you are in the world, how old you are, all these kinds of things determine what that seven and a half platform mix looks like. So two things out of that. This is not a one size fits all, everybody's going to do the same thing. But we're using a lot of different things. But this whole idea in the media that it's Facebook versus TikTok versus and it's this like, only one shall be king. It's nonsense. It's not the way it behaves. Your point about them being TV channels, it's just that. You buy a TV, because you want to see all the different content on there, you don't buy it for a single channel, and then only watch that and you know, you split your time. So I think this is one of the gravest concerns I have around the way that digital behaviours are portrayed in the media is it tries to stretch everything to the margins, it's looking for those peculiar one-off extreme stories rather than the fact that we go online to do pretty much everything. We talked about that last time we met as well, if you can think of something in your life that doesn't have an app for it, I'll be very surprised. And the lady that we were speaking to in the class that I did with you guys last time, she was saying, 'There's nothing for women's menstrual health'. I actually went and checked after the session, there are multiple things that are there, not only to help your track your cycle, which is a fairly mundane kind of thing, but there are actually apps that are there that are designed to help medical practitioners not only get more accurate results from pap smears, but also in far-flung places in the developing world actually deliver pap smears as well. So I'm not pretending that this is sorted in that we can therefore ignore these important considerations. But I'm still yet to find an area...

Kai Any area.

Simon Kemp That doesn't have an app.

Sandra I did want to get back for one second to that idea that people are on more than one platform. Because I think that's quite important to reiterate, because people always say, 'oh, you know, people are moving from TikTok to Facebook. And it's not as much that they're moving from one to the other, but they're on both.

Simon Kemp Correct. Yeah, that is the really, really important takeaway that everybody should have from the data that's out there. Now, we only have a certain number of hours in our waking day, people do try and stretch the number of hours they stay awake to consume more content. The classic Netflix, quote of 'our main competitor is sleep'. And it's true people do stay up, usually too long, to consume more content, which in itself is a concern for a variety of health reasons. But yeah, so on average, two and a half hours per day, per user, spent using social media, and that's been relatively consistent over the past couple of years.

Sandra Is that in countries like Australia, or the US?

Simon Kemp It varies by country, and it varies by age group, so you look at the younger demographics, it's upwards of three hours a day, on average.

Sandra On average.

Simon Kemp On average, on social platforms. But again, you know, once that starts to include things like TikTok, is that social compared to is it TV? And does it take out all of your cable TV time rather than your Facebook time? And that's the big question here.

Sandra It's still a really long time.

Simon Kemp Three hours per day. Yeah, I mean, don't get me wrong, that is a substantial amount of time. So 15%, on average of our waking life today is spent consuming social media, which is a lot, one five. 40% of our waking life is spent online, we'll spend 1.4 billion years of collective human time on the internet this year, as internet users around the world. That's considerable amount of time. But yeah, within that time, how we choose to allocate between different platforms and activities is an important question, that the more time I spend on one platform probably means I need to take that time away from other activities.

Kai But it is true that in the West, UK, Australia, the US, English speaking countries, the gap between time spent on TikTok, and Facebook is bigger than in other parts of the world, isn't it?

Simon Kemp So I don't have the breakdown by country across a substantial number of countries. But there are significant variations from one country to another. And it doesn't always follow the pattern you'd expect.

Kai So is Facebook rightly concerned that people are spending lots of time on TikTok versus Instagram, and those changes that they're trying to make to become more like TikTok? What's your view of that?

Simon Kemp They're concerned because of the way their business model works. So almost all of Facebook's revenues currently come from advertising and advertising is dependent at the moment on how much time people spend within the feed. So the more time I spend as a user, the more ads they can serve me, the more money they make, is the general logic. We'll come to TikTok's business model in a minute, because that in itself is fascinating, the fact that they're getting money directly from users as well as from advertising. But I think Facebook are worried because they don't seem to be that active at shifting their business model. A beautiful hypothetical idea of being the person that's in charge of the business model of Facebook, I would be diversifying as much as I can be on just ads, because that model, it guides you down a very weird sort of funnel. It's almost like an abattoir guiding the lambs to slaughter almost. Sorry, that's a terrible analogy, but it is the idea of they've only got one way of making money at the moment substantially, and they need to evolve beyond that. So yes, they are worried because they're not changing the business model. But when you look at TikTok, and how it's making money, they are making billions and this is not a random number pulled out, it's actually making billions of dollars every year in selling TikTok coins directly to consumers like you and me. We buy them through the app at 99 cents a pop or more. And we then use those coins for things like tipping creators. So in exactly the same way as when you're walking down the street and you throw coins into the guitar case of a busker. You are tipping your favourite creators as a user on TikTok because you like the content that they make,

Kai And TikTok takes a cut.

Simon Kemp Oh, of course. Absolutely. I don't know how much that cut is, and I think in a bit like the way that YouTube's rewards for creators vary by how big a creator you are. I suspect it varies. But nonetheless, this is an amazing business model because people are voluntarily spending their money to tip creators. Netflix, in my mind could, you know, in the way that we tip our Uber drivers, why not tip the creators of the content that we love. Just because it's a cinematic epic doesn't mean that it's not worthy of me saying, 'I absolutely love the Ozarks, I want to give you guys a little bit extra because Ruth, you were amazing'.

Sandra Make sure they hear about it.

Simon Kemp Totally.

Kai I don't think it would fly in Australia as much as in other places, because there's not much of a tipping culture here.

Simon Kemp This is another weird thing, like where that money comes from. So when you look at how TikTok's consumer revenues break down, actually the biggest market was the US. I was surprised by that. I didn't anticipate it being that. It's very big in China. It's actually a different app in China. It's Douyin. And my pronunciation is terrible, apologies to the Mandarin speakers. But when you look at which countries are big in spending money on TikTok, I didn't anticipate that the US would be big because they're used to getting their content for free on variety of ad-supported platforms. So this upends everything that I think a lot of business analysts expect of what the social media world is all about. This changes the opportunities for business models. Advertising has been the foundation of the commercial Internet ever since, what, the mid-90s.

Kai What I hear you say is that rather than just bluntly pivoting to video to keep people for longer to sell them more ads, what Facebook should really consider is a different income.

Simon Kemp What's the value that they're providing? I think it was very clear a few years ago that Facebook was becoming the remote control for our lives. I think they've missed the boat on that one. And they're sort of they've got other ideas. I'm sure it's not like they're a floundering company, is it? But it does feel like...

Kai I hear Metaverse.

Simon Kemp Something like that, we should come and talk about that in a minute because the metaverse is also fascinating. But yeah, I think the business models on the Internet are not restricted to advertising. And hopefully, we can get away from just having that. I'm not against ads, I mean I use them in my business as well, and I think they're brilliant. But there's other things we could be charging people for.

Sandra So there's a number of other things that people always think they know everything about. And one of those is obviously crypto.

Simon Kemp Yeah.

Sandra The other one is NFTs, a boom like never before.

Simon Kemp Right.

Sandra And then we all know we're gonna be in the metaverse soon.

Simon Kemp Apparently, all of these things have cans of worms, right. So let's start with NF T's because it's probably the most hyped story of the past 12 months. So around about this time last year. So September 2021, was when it really sort of jumped into mainstream media. And it was the only thing that the digital journalists were talking about. So back then we were looking at billions of dollars being traded in NFT's, millions of wallets trading per month, it was fascinating. Things have changed dramatically in the 12 months since.

Sandra What do you mean by dramatically?

Simon Kemp Dramatically.

Kai What happened to them, them apes?

Simon Kemp Them apes, indeed, the apes. So let's start with a number of wallets because I think that you could go so many different directions once we start with the stats. So the guys at nonfungible.com, which is in my mind, one of the more reliable places to get data about activity relating to NFTs, broadly. Nonfungible reports that back in September last year, we were looking at more than a million wallets trading NFT's on a monthly basis. That's fairly substantial.

Kai It is quite telling that in the Web3, we are not talking about users, we've just reduced people to wallets.

Simon Kemp There's a very specific reason I'm using the term wallet. And I'll talk about that in just a moment getting details on the number of actual individuals on this as close to impossible because of the privacy.

Kai But this is where the interesting bit lies, really.

Simon Kemp So a million wallets were traded in September last year, you look at the data today, and it's down to just over 200,000 wallets. So we're talking massive drops.

Sandra 200,000 is not a lot, is it?

Kai Worldwide.

Simon Kemp Not a lot versus, I mean 200,000 people trading these things, it's certainly not as big as it's made out to be.

Kai Versus a billion users on TikTok we talked about.

Simon Kemp Adult users, exactly. And then 3 billion monthly active users on Facebook. I mean, 200,000 is not exactly going to get you out of bed, if you are looking for the biggest opportunity.

Kai It doesn't bear out the media attention that this topic has.

Simon Kemp No. And I think a lot of that media attention was focused on the amount of money that was being spent. And that in itself is fascinating. I think, I don't remember the exact date of this, but it was close to 5 billion US dollars per month being, sort of, traded. And some of that was the same NFT being traded multiple times and that cumulated. So it's not quite the same as analysing a market for CPG products, for example, you've got to take this with a pinch of salt. But when you look at that figure today, it is considerably lower. I can't remember the exact number now but it's almost a 90% drop in terms of the amount of money being spent

Sandra Nine zero.

Simon Kemp Nine zero. 90% drop versus that peak a year ago. But the really worrying thing is the guys at nonfungible reported that more than half of the value of NFT's being traded in q1 of 2022 was what's called wash trading, which is where the same person, or organisation, or group of people that are in cahoots with each other, are basically just swapping it backwards and forwards to increase its value artificially. So I may have an NFT and two separate wallets and I sell it to myself and I sell it back and I sell it back and I sell it back and the price...

Kai You ratchet up the price.

Simon Kemp And it didn't solve this. So the most expensive NFT traded in August this year. You can actually see on the history of where it's tracked. You don't know who the person is, but it's the same to what that's backwards and forwards. And it went up from a relatively modest amount of money, right that way up to 2 million US dollars, the same NFT, just backwards and forwards between the same two wallets. Every day, these two wallets were trading 10-15 times. It's ridiculous.

Sandra And this is not regulated in any way, let’s make that clear.

Simon Kemp Not yet. And I think in any other market, like if you look at the stock market, for example, wash trading has been illegal for the longest time. So, you know, this is the gravest concern is that NFT's are a pure speculative bubble at the moment. The technology itself is clearly amazing. There's no doubting that the underlying sort of tech behind NFT's is here to stay, we're going to see it as part of commercial contracts, lawyers, all this kind of stuff are getting involved. So, you know, I have no doubt that the blockchain and these kinds of...

Kai Smart contracts.

Simon Kemp Right, all that stuff.

Kai For example, there are legit ways in which those smart contracts could be used to have artists participate in you know, the selling and on selling of their artworks, as they get more and more valuable, they would receive a share of that. And those are really great innovations. But what I hear you say is that the NFT market as it stands at the moment, seems to be ripe with artificially inflated value.

Simon Kemp So very succinct. Thank you, Kai. I'm not very good at succinct, as you can tell. But yeah, it's a shame because the potential is there for artists and musicians and creative people generally to get much better financial rewards for the creations that they produce and deliver, and yet that whole market has been corrupted by people that are speculating and just trying to make a quick buck. It's a real shame.

Sandra So how about the crypto market? Because if we're talking about people trying to make a quick buck.

Simon Kemp Yeah, crypto. So as we record today, crypto's down 10% since yesterday, so Bitcoin, slightly terrifying. The number of people who say that they own some form of cryptocurrency, up by 50% over the past year, according to data from GWI. Last year, last two years? I'm pretty sure it's the last year, but either way, even if it's two years, that's still a big jump. So roughly one in eight working age internet users now own some form of cryptocurrency, based on GWI research. The guys at crypto.com suggest that roughly two thirds of those people own Bitcoin, but that may not be just Bitcoin, they probably own Bitcoin and a few other things as well. But, so Bitcoin's still the biggest. But obviously, the price of Bitcoin fluctuating so wildly at the moment that it's probably not worth trying to make anything bigger out of the fact that it dropped so much overnight. Again, I think this goes back to what we're just saying about NFT's, is the biggest challenge with crypto at the moment is it's just a speculative asset. The trading of cryptocurrencies at the moment is nothing short of a casino. You can buy some things in the physical world with crypto, but realistically, you're not going to go down to your local supermarket and buy your groceries with crypto anytime soon, because of those fluctuating values. And I think this is a massive frustration, not just for me, but for a lot of other people that are looking at this technology and saying, 'this is one of the most important opportunities for us to level playing fields and give access to financial empowerment for people around the world and remove middlemen and blah, blah, blah'. And yet, all we're using it for is exactly what as you said, Sandra, trying to make a quick buck. It's frustrating.

Sandra But again as with NFTs, the underlying technology has a lot of promise that goes way beyond.

Simon Kemp Yeah, absolutely. So I talked about the negatives of this, but I have no doubt that the technology is here to stay, whether it's crypto, whether it's NFT's and other forms of blockchain. This is the future, but we're abusing the future at the moment using it for rubbish.

Sandra Ooh.

Simon Kemp Do you like my high horse, should I stand down?

Kai On The Future, This Week, abusing the future.

Sandra That just leaves the metaverse. What about the metaverse?

Kai Disembodied floating torsos.

Simon Kemp Again, abuse of the future. I'm frustrated as a user that where we've got to in the metaverse, and these sort of virtual worlds, doesn't seem to have progressed massively compared with the Second Life I remember in 2007. Half of my sort of cubist body wandering around in these not quite dynamic worlds. Surely we can do more,

Kai Or you lost your legs.

Simon Kemp Exactly. You've lost your mind as well. So the metaverse is already, let me correct myself. The metaverses, because there is no singular metaverse. So despite what various different commercial entities will tell you, there will be many metaverses, and the majority of those metaverses exist already in gaming worlds. You look at Fortnite, Minecraft, and Roblox, these are perfect demonstrations of what one might call them a metaverse, as is Second Life which is still going strong, by the way.

Kai Is it?

Simon Kemp Not quite as big as it used to be. But we're probably talking maybe 10s, if you're lucky, hundreds of 1000s of users on a monthly basis.

Kai But then Yahoo is still a thing, I hear.

Simon Kemp Yeah, but we'll come back to that one in a minute. But yeah, if let's suppose it was 100,000 people using the Second Life environment still today. And I don't know if that is the number, but that would only be slightly fewer than the number of wallets trading NFTs.

Kai So it might be more users, more genuine users.

Simon Kemp Correct. Absolutely. So this is one of the things where I think the stats that get reported misrepresent real behaviours, and people need to be very careful about how they interpret data. But yeah the metaverse, and metaverses, it's very clear that there's a lot of potential for more engaging forms of entertainment in there. So whether it's video games, which it seems almost inevitable that they will become more immersive and interactive, and that will be an extension of the existing metaverse gaming things like Minecraft and blah, blah, blah. But I think in things like movies, I'm very hesitant to say that because I'm not making a prediction. And I remember the kerfuffle that was 3d cinema, and it just didn't translate into 3d TV at home, it was just painful, because you had to put in a separate pair of glasses, dammit, that ruined the experience for everybody. The idea of putting on a virtual reality headset, I just don't see it happening. We've had virtual reality headsets for a while. They're great for people who love them. But the average person on the street just isn't going to get past the feeling sick. Just, you know, try it once and say, 'it's not for me', and move on, which is a shame. So the metaverse I'm not as bullish as Mark Zuckerberg on this. But at the same time, I can see the potential I just think that potential needs to be adapted to the real world, ironically, of the everyday person.

Kai So what about Yahoo?

Simon Kemp You've been waiting for that all session haven't you? I don't know. I mean, Yahoo's been sold as a company multiple times, it feels like it's dead for a good 20 years now. Yet half a billion people, almost, used or visited yahoo.com, in the last month. Late 2022, 477 million people visit a Yahoo in the last 30 days. And that's yahoo.com. Then you add on yahoo.co.jp, which is the biggest individual country and isn't included in that figure and it goes up again.

Kai Half a billion. That's half a TikTok.

Simon Kemp Exactly.

Kai That's like orders of magnitude bigger than NFT.

Simon Kemp Right? And yeah, who is an incredible draw. It has a very loyal user base, who were admittedly probably slightly older than your average TikTok user. But these people have money. They're online doing things. They're buying things online, they're buying...

Kai And they go there for financial news, right?

Simon Kemp Financial, for news, for email, which is still a thing, three quarters of Internet users across all ages, still use email every month That may be higher or lower than you were expecting, but it's still a substantial figure. So don't let people tell you email is dead. That's nonsense. So Yahoo is still a big provider of that for people who have been on the internet for more than a decade. And that is a lot of people. So you look at a country like Japan, one of the reasons why Japan has such unique digital behaviours is more than half of the Japanese population was already online by 2003. They developed behaviours before the iPhone came along, which is when behaviours really started to change compared to pre-iPhone stuff. And because of that, those Japanese users had developed habits which have endured despite the move to new devices.

Kai Whereas places like China are very much a mobile-first country.

Simon Kemp Yeah, I mean, China's completely separate to the rest of the world in terms of its behaviours, because of the Great Firewall and whatever else. And because they do so much more online than any of us do. So just in terms of their financial system, it's all integrated into the internet as well. So yeah, Yahoo is a great example of stop getting distracted by the latest shiny object and those media headlines. User behaviours are a lot more enduring than I think the media would like us to believe. So sure, platforms will rise and fall quite quickly. But underlying drivers and things that actually add utility to our lives will continue. So therein lies probably the key takeaway is understand the motivations rather than getting stuck on what's the big shiny platform this week.

Sandra So we're still going to be posting pictures of cats on the internet.

Simon Kemp Funny you should ask that. So the internet apparently was invented for cats. If you read the Wikipedia page about the internet, it mentions that it was invented for sharing photos of kittens. Disturbingly, the users don't seem to have received the memo. People actually share more content about dogs people are more interested in dogs on the internet than they are in cats. And this is backed up by various data points.

Sandra How much more interesting?

Kai Misinformation. Simon? Clearly fake news.

Simon Kemp I'm a dog lover. I'm gonna give it to the dogs, so to speak. But yeah, no, it's weird, like so Twitter, clearly a dog's place rather than a cat place. I think it depends on where you go. I'd be really interested to see whether this plays out on Reddit slightly differently. But nonetheless, when you start looking at the masses, dogs win over cats. Sorry, folks,

Sandra On all platforms?

Simon Kemp No. So when you look at the number of websites, apparently cats have a slightly higher number. But when it comes to social media, dogs definitely winning, especially Instagram, killing it.

Kai Well dogs are more social than cats.

Simon Kemp Apparently so. The stereotypes are true.

Kai We've covered cats. We've covered dogs. I think we've seen it all.

Sandra That's all we have time for today.

Kai That is all we have time for today. Simon, thank you so much. Fascinating as always.

Simon Kemp Thank you for nerding out with me.

Sandra Thanks, Simon.

Outro You've been listening to The Future, This Week from The University of Sydney Business School. Sandra Peter is the Director of Sydney Business Insights and Kai Riemer is Professor of Information Technology and Organisation. Connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and WeChat, and follow, like, or leave us a rating wherever you get your podcasts. If you have any weird or wonderful topics for us to discuss, send them to sbi@sydney.edu.au.

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