Throughout 2020, we tracked changing Internet trends as the SARS-Cov-2 pandemic forced us all to change the way we were living, working, exercising and learning. In early April, we created a dedicated website https://builtforthis.net/ that showed some of the ways in which Internet use had changed, suddenly, because of the crisis.
On that website, we showed how traffic patterns had changed; for example, where people accessed the Internet from, how usage had jumped up dramatically, and how Internet attacks continued unabated and ultimately increased.
Today we are launching a dedicated Year In Review page with interactive maps and charts you can use to explore what changed on the Internet in 2020. Year In Review is part of Cloudflare Radar. We launched Radar in September 2020 to give anyone access to Internet use and abuse trends that Cloudflare normally had reserved only for employees.
Where people accessed the Internet
To get a sense for the Year In Review, let’s zoom in on London (you can do the same with any city from a long list of locations that we’ve analyzed). Here’s a map showing the change in Internet use comparing April (post-lockdown) and February (pre-lockdown). This map compares working hours Internet use on a weekday between those two months.
As you can clearly see, with offices closed in central London (and elsewhere), Internet use dropped (the blue colour) while usage increased in largely residential areas. Looking out to the west of London, a blue area near Windsor shows how Internet usage dropped at London’s Heathrow airport and surrounding areas.
A similar story plays out slightly later in the San Francisco Bay Area.
But that trend reverses in July, with an increase in Internet use in many places that saw a rapid decrease in April.
When you select a city from the map, a second chart shows the overall trend in Internet use for the country in which that city is located. For example, here’s the chart for the United States. The Y-axis shows the percentage change in Internet traffic compared to the start of the year.
Internet use really took off in March (when the lockdowns began) and rapidly increased to 40% higher than the start of the year. And usage has pretty much stayed there for all of 2020: that’s the new normal.
Here’s what happened in France (when selecting Paris) on the map view.
Internet use was flat until the lockdowns began. At that point, it took off and grew close to 40% over the beginning of the year. But there’s a visible slow down during the summer months, with Internet use up “only” 20% over the start of the year. Usage picked up again at “la rentrée” in September, with a new normal of about 30% growth in 2020.
What people did on the Internet
Returning to London, we can zoom into what people did on the Internet as the lockdowns began. The UK government announced a lockdown on March 23. On that day, the mixture of Internet use looked like this:
A few days later, the E-commerce category had jumped from 12.9% to 15.1% as people shopped online for groceries, clothing, webcams, school supplies, and more. Travel dropped from 1.5% of traffic to 1.1% (a decline of 30%).
And then by early mid-April E-commerce had increased to 16.2% of traffic with Travel remaining low.
But not all the trends are pandemic-related. One question is: to what extent is Black Friday (November 27, 2020) an event outside the US? We can answer that by moving the London slider to late November and look at the change in E-commerce. Watch carefully as E-commerce traffic grows towards Black Friday and actually peaks at 21.8% of traffic on Saturday, November 28.
As Christmas approached, E-commerce dropped off, but another category became very important: Entertainment. Notice how it peaked on Christmas Eve, as Britons, no doubt, turned to entertainment online during a locked-down Christmas.
And Hacking 2020
Of course, a pandemic didn’t mean that hacking activity decreased. Throughout 2020 and across the world, hackers continued to run their tools to attack websites, overwhelm APIs, and try to exfiltrate data.
To explore data for 2020, you can check out Cloudflare Radar’s Year In Review page. To go deep into any specific country with up-to-date data about current trends, start at Cloudflare Radar’s homepage.