Purpose: The aim was to determine the extent of daily disposable contact lens prescribing worldwide and to characterise the associated demographics and fitting patterns. Methods: Up to 1,000 survey forms were sent to contact lens fitters in up to 40 countries between January and March every year for five consecutive years (2007 to 2011). Practitioners were asked to record data relating to the first 10 contact lens fits or refits performed after receiving the survey form. Survey data collected since 1996 were also analysed for seven nations to assess daily disposable lens fitting trends since that time. Results: Data were collected in relation to 97,289 soft lens fits, of which 23,445 (24.1 per cent) were with daily disposable lenses and 73,170 (75.9 per cent) were with reusable lenses. Daily disposable lens prescribing ranged from 0.6 per cent of all soft lenses in Nepal to 66.2 per cent in Qatar. Compared with reusable lens fittings, daily disposable lens fittings can be characterised as follows: older age (30.0 ± 12.5 versus 29.3 ± 12.3years for reusable lenses); males are over-represented; a greater proportion of new fits versus refits; 85.9 per cent hydrogel; lower proportion of toric and presbyopia designs and a higher proportion of part-time wear. There has been a continuous increase in daily disposable lens prescribing between 1996 and 2011. The proportion of daily disposable lens fits (as a function of all soft lens fits) is positively related to the gross domestic product at purchasing power parity per capita (r2= 0.55, F = 46.8, p < 0.0001). Conclusions: The greater convenience and other benefits of daily disposable lenses have resulted in this modality capturing significant market share. The contact lens field appears to be heading toward a true single-use-only, disposable lens market. © 2012 The Authors; Clinical and Experimental Optometry © 2012 Optometrists Association Australia.