Tech

Missing Link: Everyday life and crises – how Corona is still changing the Internet

When many states severely restricted public life in March because of the corona pandemic, online services became more important than ever. The lives of many people, including in Germany, changed radically – and shifted to the Internet in many areas: video conferences instead of face-to-face meetings, digital instead of analogue entertainment, online shopping instead of a shopping spree.

The sudden increase in global internet usage made headlines as early as March: The Frankfurt internet hub DE-CIX reported a world record for data throughput. Streaming services felt compelled to lower the picture quality in order to save bandwidth. The first data analyzes at the beginning of the lockdown also showed strong changes in people’s digital behavior, for example increased ones Access to streaming platforms and social networks.



What is missing: In the fast-paced world of technology, there is often time to rearrange the many news and backgrounds. At the weekend we want to take it, follow the side paths away from the current, try out other perspectives and make nuances audible.

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Many people in Germany are now moving in their everyday lives almost as they were before the pandemic. However, the usage data from various websites and online services show that the effects were still clearly noticeable for many providers at the end of July. For this purpose, heise online evaluated the weekly page visits from Germany on various large websites from the end of January to the end of July. Data from the analysis company serve as the basis SimilarWebwhich uses random samples and internal data from website operators to generate traffic extrapolations. We also evaluated various public sources.

It starts with three of the largest online services of all: YouTube, Netflix and Facebook. With the first week examined as the reference point, the percentage time course shows that all three sides were able to record a strong increase in visits from Germany from the week of March 15 at the latest. That was before the strictest lockdown measures were announced on March 22nd. Facebook reached most visits earlier than YouTube and Netflix: First came the need for information, then the lockdown and thus the desire for diversion.

The time history only shows the weekly visits to the classic websites – apps for mobile devices or smart TVs are not covered. But the pure browser visits already paint a clear picture. Facebook completely lost its temporary growth of almost 25 percent by June. Visits to YouTube and the homepage of Netflix (on which the service can be subscribed to) fluctuated from week to week, but so far they have stabilized well above the pre-Corona level. Since July, more people have flocked to YouTube and Netflix during the holiday season.

Facebook also seems to have increased its visits again in July. A look at the data from the previous year shows, however, that the social network still received around three percent fewer visits from Germany at the end of July than in the same calendar week of 2019. YouTube and Netflix, on the other hand, have almost consistently exceeded their previous year’s figures since the beginning of the pandemic. Overall, the use of Facebook, for example among German young people, has been declining for years, but the number of users of the network increased overall during Corona.

After physical shopping in Germany was extremely restricted for weeks from March onwards, it is now clear: the online mail order business has benefited massively from this in the second quarter of 2020 at the latest. At the end of July, both Amazon and eBay reported strong growth in sales Zalando. The fact that online retailers have been making significantly more money overall since the outbreak of the coronavirus is not necessarily reflected in the German visits to their websites.

The German domain of Amazon has the most inconspicuous course of the page visits – neither in relation to the starting week nor in comparison to the previous year is a clear trend noticeable. But this is also due to different conditions: The basis in absolute page visits at Amazon at the beginning of February was more than twice as large as at eBay and more than 18 times as large as at Zalando. Fluctuations are therefore less noticeable in percentage terms with the Internet giant, although in absolute numbers they are sometimes even greater than with the competition.

However, all three platforms experienced a decline in visits at the beginning of the pandemic in Germany in mid-March. The hardest hit was Zalando, whose weekly visits fell by almost forty percent compared to the beginning of February. The enterprise later explained the decline with itthat due to the general uncertainty at the beginning of the Corona measures, people were significantly less willing to buy. But delivery difficulties and delays are likely to have deterred some buyers at first.

With a delay of a few weeks, the weekly page visits on eBay skyrocketed. In mid-April, the platform achieved an increase of around 25 percent. A specific reason cannot be read from the data. Thanks to its many used items and private sellers, eBay may have become particularly attractive when deliveries took longer elsewhere or stocks were running low. Until the end of July, eBay was also the only one of the three online retailers that was able to stabilize its visitor numbers well above the level of early February.

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