Historically, the internet usage in France has been lower than its european neighbors, some say that the reason is that the internet was mostly available in english, or that French people being more latin are reticent to use credit cards online. but France had developed its own version of the internet in the 80’s : the Minitel. 

The Internet’s predecessor : the Minitel

The Minitel started in 1983, pride of the french technological companies and monopolies ( Mitterrand was elected in 1981). A big effort was made to educate the population and the state distributed free terminals to whoever had a phone line.

Minitel terminalThe truth is that 20% of the households had a minitel in 1993, and the Minitel covered free and paying services : yellow and white pages, train tickets, public services, dating services… Some current successful entrepreneurs in France come from the Minitel dating industry : Xavier Niel (Free), Marc Simoncini (Meetic).

Did the minitel help the rise of the internet by training the french population to use a terminal? Or was is a competitor to the internet? We won’t know the answer for sure, but I havent seen anywhere else a post office distributing computers, which helped removed places and a wide range of the population to interact with a machine. Any insight on this please comment !

Number of minitel terminals in France (blue line)

Internet users and Minitel
source inaglobal.fr

Rise of the internet use in France (%)

Internet users 2000
source arcep.fr

Starting in 1983, the number of Minitel terminals peaked in 1993 to more than 6M, and decrease while the internet raised, and was finally ended in 2012. The object became a collector since, that you can find in many developers and web agencies offices …

Internet users in France : behind the UK and Germany, but above Italy and Spain.

France is alway split in between its northern and southern neighbors – and as expected stands behind them but ahead of its southern counterparts.

Here below some wearesocial.fr global numbers to give the context of the french performance vs its direct neighboring countries.

internet users france 2015

Internet use : France behind the UK and Germany with 84%

time spent on the internet

Time spent on the internet: France behind the UK but before Germany

e commerce france

E-commerce : behind the UK and Germany

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