Australia has just logged the first ever decline in Internet access - a sign that has spread terror across the Asia Pac region, reported the BBC. It's not as bad as it sounds in actual fact but, in these relatively immature online times, we all like to think that the appeal of the web is such that it will grow and grow and grow. It won't though.
The Internet uptake index was established by the MISC market research firm back in 1999 when the Internet had only really just been born. Sine then it's been counting Internet take-up in Australia and, up until this week, it's been growing ever since. This week though it's a different picture.
The second quarter of 2002 was marked by a distinct downturn in Australian Internet access. With more than 70% of the population of the country online, Australia has some of the best Internet penetration in the world. The second quarter however saw them desert the medium in droves. An estimated 300,000 have dropped their connection since the first quarter of 2002.
The news is a serious fall for the region but it's not the first. The first quarter of the year also showed a slowdown but nothing that compared to this. Home users in particular are leaving the Internet in their legions. Business users on the other hand are increasing. MISC had this to say to the BBC: "While the fall may not seem immediately significant, in the context of regular quarterly growth rates of 20% that have been shown by the index in the past, it is a serious and unprecedented correction."
Given that Australia sits in such a unique position, influenced by Asia and Europe as much as the US, it's often regarded as a very good barometer for technology and its take-up. The past few years in Australia however have been no different to any other emerging Internet economy, it's seen companies collapse, had ISP trouble, and broadband hasn't been as forthcoming as it could have been.
All of this will have played a part in the declining numbers but perhaps of bigger effect has been the Internet itself. It's seems fair to say that over the next couple of years the Internet is going to have to change. It has reached the summit of its current possibilities - with content, features, advertising, penetration and regulation - and if it's going to move forward, still gathering surfers, it's going to have to update the lot.
That, more than anything else, is probably the reason for the fall off. The Internet in its current incarnation has gone as far as it can and needs to be tidied up considerably to hold the attention, and collect the dollars, from surfers. But don't worry, it's happening.