Canadians embrace web like no others

Canadians rank among the most enthusiastic users of the web and all its various offshoots.

Canadians were curating their Facebook profiles long before the rest of the world got hooked, many were experimenting with the limitations of writing in 140-character snippets at Twitter's launch in 2006, and we watch online video more than any other web surfers.

There aren't many theories as to why exactly, but Canadians rank among the most enthusiastic users of the web and all its various offshoots. The Canadian Press talked to a few of the internet's biggest properties about what Canadians are doing online.


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Canadians spend more time online than users in any of the countries tracked by measurement company comScore, which also said Canada had the highest penetration of internet access. About 68 per cent of the Canadian population is online, comScore estimated in April, compared to 62 per cent in France and the United Kingdom, 60 per cent in Germany, 59 per cent in the United States, 57 per cent in Japan, and 36 per cent in Italy.

Canada was the only country in which users logged an average of more than 2,500 minutes online a month, which is almost 42 hours. Israel was second with an average of around 2,300 minutes, while a few other countries were around the 2,000-minute mark.

A passion for YouTube

"In Canada, YouTube per capita consumption of video is No. 1 in the world. It's just absolutely crazy in terms of how passionate Canadians are about YouTube," said Chris O'Neill, Canada's country director for Google.

It's estimated that about 21 million Canadians visit YouTube each month, compared to 147 million Americans. But considering the U.S. has 10 times Canada's population, Canadians are way ahead on a per capita basis.

Canadian users also view more videos, with an average of 147 watched each month compared to 100 per U.S. viewer. In terms of most minutes watched, 18-to-24 is the biggest demographic with a monthly average of 244 videos viewed over the course of 1,095 minutes, or 18.25 hours.

Canadians were among the eager early adopters of Facebook and at one point trailed just the U.S. in overall numbers of users. But Canadians no longer dominate on the site. According to, Canada has more than 17 million users, and is neck and neck with India for 9th and 10th on the list of the countries with the most Facebook accounts. But Canada's penetration rate of about 51.2 per cent of the population, or 65.9 per cent of the online population, is still one of the most significant on Facebook.

Twitter still has a long way to go before it even comes close to nearing Facebook's user base — Twitter is believed to be around 200 million, a far cry from Facebook's 575 million — but it did add more than 100 million accounts worldwide in the last year.

"What we can share is that the number of Twitter accounts in Canada has increased by 75 per cent since the beginning of the year, and the number of daily tweets more than doubled," a Twitter spokesperson said in an email.

Bieber meets Twitter

Vancouver-based company Hootsuite Media, which has a popular Twitter app with more than one million users, saw 250 per cent growth in usage among its Canadian users in 2010. About 5.5 per cent of its daily traffic, 55,000 tweets, comes from Canadian users.

According to an analysis of traffic by measurement company Trendrr, Canadian female Twitter users are more active than male Twitter users. And one Canadian user is among the most influential of them all. Justin Bieber, with more than 6.4 million followers, gets mentioned in about 200,000 tweets daily, Trenddr estimates.

The average Canadian web surfer reads 16 Wikipedia pages a month, which is the most in the world — one more than German users, two more than Polish users and four more than Americans. Canadian users generate about 217,000 edits a month, which ranks 8th among the most productive countries.

Canadian e-book readers are supporting homegrown talent, says e-tailer Kobo. Ever since being announced as the winner of this year's Scotiabank Giller Prize on Nov. 9, The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud has been the consistent top seller.

And they like Jane Austen too. In the free section of the website, works by the British novelist are the most downloaded "by a wide, wide margin."

If there's one thing that separates Canadian and American customers it's the romance and erotica category, which is very big down south and sells 50 per cent better than in Canada. Canadians go more for contemporary fiction, Kobo says. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen got a big boost after being featured on Oprah but sales were twice as big in Canada, on a proportional basis.