Mobile browsing hits record level in December

Holiday shopping helps reverse temporary decline in mobile as percentage of total web browsing

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A mysterious decline in mobile browsing as a percentage of total web surfing was obliterated in November and December by holiday shoppers searching for and purchasing gifts online.

According to analytics firm Net Applications, mobile browsing jumped to 7.67% of total web surfing in December, up from 6.73% in November and 5.52% in October.

After rising steadily as a percentage of overall web surfing, mobile browsing declined in September and October, raising questions about whether the decline was an aberration or indicative of a ceiling on mobile browsing.

But December's mobile browsing percentage of 7.67% (versus the still-dominant desktop at 91.99%) is twice that of February's 3.88%. That's a big jump in less than a year.

Here's the chart:

Courtesy: Net Applications

It's tempting to think that the boost from holiday shopping -- particularly from Black Friday (when shoppers hit the stores with their smartphones in hand, looking for instant deals), Cyber Monday, and Christmas Day (when everyone's downloading apps to their new devices) -- is temporary and will fade with the gray of winter. But mobile browsing actually increased after last year's holiday season, so rather than causing a spike in the use of mobile devices to access the Internet, holiday shopping may be helping to normalize mobile browsing.

If December's mobile browsing percentage is 7.7% (rounded up slightly), what will it be five years from now? Could mobile browsing top 30%, 40% or more by 2017? Feel free to weigh in with predictions below.

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