ITU Finds 2 Billion Internet Users Worldwide, 5 Billion Mobile Subscriptions

Following a weekend where much of Egypt had no Internet service at all, we're now seeing data that proves just how important the world wide web is to the society we now live in. Just decades ago, there was no worldwide inter-connectivity. But the world has become a far smaller place with the advent of the Internet, and the UN's telecommunications agency, Hamadoun Toure, has just produced a staggering number to prove that.

The amount of users worldwide that now use the Internet has ballooned to two billion. Yes, billion, with a capital B. To put things in perspective, it's important to realize that there were only 500 million mobile users globally and 250 million Internet users globally in the year 2000. In just over a decade, both of those numbers have simply exploded. Today, a full five billion people have cellphone subscriptions, proving that mobile use is actually growing faster than Internet use. But it's arguably easier to get a low-end phone into the hands of individuals in developing countries compared to a fixed line connection and a PC.

To say that the Internet has changed the world as we know it is an understatement. It most definitely has, and it will continue to. Just look at Facebook. Today, it's possible to keep tabs on thousands of friends without ever having to call them. All possible because of widespread Internet use. Estimates now say that 2.08 billion will be online by the end of the year, with 5.28 billion cellphone subscriptions to occur by the end of 2010.

This is all the more impressive when you think about the population of the world. Earth is only home to 6.8 billion people. That means that today, in 2011, one in three humans surfs online. That's a staggering number. The Internet didn't even exist 50 years ago, and in just that short amount of time, nearly a third of the world -- regardless of race, language, nationality or social status -- has access. Even wilder, 57% of Internet users actually reside in "developing countries."

With this monumental explosion in Internet and mobile use, something obviously has to give. That "something" is fixed landline telephones. For the fourth year in a row, fixed line subscriptions fell, with just under 1.2 billion active lines today. Mobile phones haven't been around long, and already there are 5 billion mobile lines compared to 1.2 billion landlines. Amazing stuff. If you're wondering where exactly people are surfing, the ITU found that the highest density resides in Europe, with the Americas, former Soviet states and Arab nations following closely behind. Can you imagine where these numbers will be in just 10 years from now?