Country Snapshot: USA

Marc Jarrett
Being a Brit, I am proud of the fact that a fellow countryman invented the protocol that has made the World Wide Web possible and de facto was instrumental in facilitating the birth of our industry. Tim Berners-Lee, you rock!

Whilst the Brits might have invented it, it is now the Yanks who undoubtedly dominate the web — as the number of adult affiliate programs based there bear witness. And no prizes for guessing in which country ICANN is headquartered...

As for the numbers, the U.S. has a population of nearly 309 million souls, of which 72.5 percent — about 220 million people — have access to the Internet at this time. No surprises there then.

The Internet might be the world's first truly global medium, but most U.S. webmasters seem to behave like the world starts in New York an ends at Los Angeles, steadfastly sticking to an 'English only' sales pitch when trying to lure surfers into their members' areas. Quite remarkable really, when you consider that the pics and vids we peddle really do say more than a thousand words and need no translation.

When it comes to converting U.S. traffic into greenbacks, the credit card remains the best billing mechanism in order to do so — not least since the average American has four of them, apparently.

At this point in my snapshot, I would normally start extolling the virtues of phone billing as an additional source of revenue for webmasters. However, as with mobile, the U.S. is a little different to the rest of the world when it comes to pay-per-call billing. In short: 900 sucks. MCI is the only transit carrier, it does not work with cell phones, and chargebacks are all too common since U.S. consumers are aware that they are not legally obliged to pay that element of their phone bill, and consequently many don't.

In most of the remaining 194 countries of the world, chargebacks with phone billing are negligible — subscribers either have prepaid mobile accounts, or if surfers call from their regular landlines and don't pay their phone bills they lose an essential utility which just so happens to be the Internet's backbone.

To this end, when chatting to prospective customers, I normally advise them NOT to employ phone billing in the U.S. since this could cannibalise revenues in the country where the credit card still reigns supreme. We then send such customers a script with the U.S. disabled so that our geo-targeted payment button does not appear on their join page for surfers surfing there.

When it comes to mobile, the U.S. is also a challenging environment: whilst porn 'to go' is making great progress in Europe and elsewhere, in the U.S., Verizon, AT&T and Sprint are steadfastly refusing to spread their collective legs. Yet. And whilst PSMS (premium SMS) can be used for chat, it cannot be used as a billing mechanism for surfers to gain access to adult websites. Yet.

In conclusion, the U.S is a country of paradoxes: On the one hand, it is arguably the most innovative and dynamic nation on the entire planet. And given the fact that most of the world's top universities are based there, this situation is unlikely to change any time soon.

On the other hand, it is a country which still has to play catch-up with the rest of the world when it comes to the latest billing and delivery technologies.

But given their talent for said innovation, you can expect them to catch up sooner than later.