Last month I blogged about my frustration with a lack of solid Canadian data on Internet use.

That frustration has by no means abated. Since I wrote that post in mid-December, I’ve been trying to get information about the seemingly moribund Canadian Internet Project, but so far to no avail. The good news is that sometime between December 16 and early January, their site went back online. However, the last content added seems to be a 2008 report titled “Canada online!” based on 2007 data.

There was a glimmer or two of light on the horizon though. I learned that Industry Canada has a team working to refresh its Digital Economy site. That’s good. And then yesterday, my friend Lydia pointed me to a report from new research firm Abacus Data that’s just come out this morning.

“What’s the big deal with Facebook” is a 10-page report based on a public opinion survey that explored who’s using Facebook up here in Canada and what they’re using it for. There’s some fascinating data here. Some of it is confirmatory of hunches that most of us have — that the younger a person is, the more likely they are to use tools such as Facebook and the less likely they are to see sharing information as risky. But just having confirmation of this is useful.

But here’s the big story in the data for me:

graph describing how various age groups receive information from their friends

Graph from page 10 of the Abacus Data report

The fact that the number of people identifying Facebook as the most likely source of information about their friends goes from 8% for 60+ folks to 46% for 18-29 year-olds is information. But look at that text messaging bar. That’s 1 in 5 young people getting friend information via text.

That’s an amazing shift in carrying information. It requires incredibly condensed language; it also requires incredible virality — that text needs to push the receipient to pass the information on to another person. And that means that within the incredibly condensed language, there has to be attention and time to pushing on information — the texts have to have “hooks”. I’m not suggesting that 18-29 year-olds are taking marketing classes — I’m suggesting that unconsciously they’re practicing a version of SEO for texts and interpersonal communication. What is that? Would you call it TFO — text forwarding optimization? I’m not sure.

I’m really excited that Abacus Data is doing this work. Perhaps eventually, we’ll have a lively and productive Canadian Internet Project doing the same thing.

And in the meantime, I’m still hoping that people will ask  – or answer — themselves why we have so little native data on such an important phenomenon.

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