photo sharing

Mary Meeker's conventional wisdom

May 30, 2013: 6:48 AM ET

There is still lots of room to grow in mobile, says one of the world's top Internet analysts in her annual report.

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FORTUNE -- Mary Meeker's annual Internet Trends report is a little like Cokie Roberts's Monday morning appearances on NPR -- a litany of points of unsurprising conventional wisdom.

That doesn't make it valueless: Like Roberts's weekly reports, Meeker's annual presentations put a lot of disparate information in context and offer a guide to what is, well, the conventional wisdom: Beltway wisdom in Roberts's case, Silicon Valley wisdom in Meeker's. Meeker is one up on Roberts in this respect: She offers a lot of data largely generated in-house at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, where the Internet analyst is a partner. Her report, presented Wednesday at the AllThingsD conference, was, as always, accompanied by an insane number of slides.

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One of them, showing Facebook (FB) at the head of the pack of social media services that are all growing -- Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube (GOOG), LinkedIn (LNKD) -- prompted Meeker to utter a line that could have been the slogan for her report: "You know that, you intuit it -- here's some data that backs it up."

Another slide showed that 500 million photos are shared online every day, and Meeker expects that number to double between this year and next. Never mind that seemingly 90% of shared photos are interesting mainly just to the sharer, that's an incredible number and it explains why Facebook shelled out $1 billion for Instagram, why Yahoo (YHOO) finally got around to revamping its formerly moribund Flickr service, and why Apple (AAPL) is running all those TV spots peddling the iPhone as a camera. Snapchat is leading the growth of photo-sharing, Meeker said, but photos are driving traffic growth for Facebook and lots of other services as well.

Perhaps more immediately interesting in terms of business prospects, though, was Meeker's description of the mobile market. Mobile still makes up just 15% of Internet traffic. That means there's lots of room for growth as the world continues to port itself to wireless devices. There are now 1.5 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, up by about 400 million in the past year, or a gain of nearly 30%. Until very recently, the popular notion was that mobile advertising would make for a much tougher market even than traditional Internet advertising. And that still might be the case, but Facebook's experience so far seems to show that mobile ads, at least in a social media environment, can work. Facebook's total revenue grew by 43% in the first quarter, Meeker said, while its mobile revenue grew by 54%. Average revenue per Facebook user is down for PC users, and up for mobile users. "They've managed this transition very well," Meeker said.

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The growth of mobile devices will continue apace, particularly from a global perspective. "Emerging markets are really driving a lot of that growth," Meeker said, including in some rather surprising places such as Nigeria, Iran, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Meanwhile, we're already seeing the beginnings of the next platform phases, from smartphones and tablets into "wearables, driveables, flyables, and scannables." Those are things like Google Glass, self-driving cars, drones ("of the good kind," Meeker was quick to say), and scanning technology for things like nutrition labels, retail check-out, and travel.

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