Most of Britain’s 10 million Internet Society members, commonly called Netzines, spend 20 hours a week on the Internet. (Source IRS Surveys) It is not all searching for information. As research by Georgia Tech Research Corporation2 (GVU Survey) shows.
As in all societies, everyone is different. Some use it mostly as a work tool, more use it for personal information. Education, entertainment, shopping and communication are all applications for use of the Internet.
Applying the GVU Survey to the UK, the primary use for the Internet is different for different people. (statistics and graphs by IRS Surveys) Additional information about how people use the Internet at work comes from the Spyglass Inc3 using its Surfwatch software. It seems that one third of Internet surfing at work is not work related. Non work related visits to sites include news at 8.8%, investments at 6.7%, sexually explicate 2.9%, travel 2.5%, entertainment 2% . Time will tell, but the pressure to use the Internet more at work and for work will grow as business to business transactions escalate.
The number of page being viewed at work is increasing dramatically. This requires good Internet skills.
Of Britain's’ 10 million Internet users over 1.5 million men and 600,000 women enjoy interaction within newsgroups every day. Half of UK Internet society take daily newsfeeds4 In searching for information, the most common method is the use of information on existing Web sites and newsgroups which are already favourites for the Netzine. To find new information, people use Search engines. Research by Danny Sullivan5 shows that most people only use one or two words in a search (65%). Sex is the most sought subject (but is now in decline) but his report of searches in 1998 also identified tools to aid Internet interaction (mp3 and chat, ) as being important and, at the time the film Titanic was all the rage and was much searched for.
Interaction and communication, (excluding e-mail ) are already significant aspects of Internet behaviour and are the fastest growing applications. This is most evident among younger women (source IRS Surveys) It comes as no surprise therefor, at the time of writing (August 1999) to find mp3, chat and ICQ continuing for the second year among the top twenty most looked for subjects in www.searchterms.com. This suggests that netzines are looking for tools to make their life in Internet Society even more interactive and they seek a wider range of communication facilities. Most people are conservative in their buying habits compared to Internet users. As part of the learning curve, Internet users become adept at buying and downloading new technologies.
Newsgroup, chat, the exchange of music clips, photos and all manner of gossip and information is now exchanged one to one, one to many and many to many all the time.
In the UK in mid 1999, it was the primary use for the Internet for over 2 million people every day. Newsgroups , e-mail discussion lists and Internet chat are very important. They allow anyone to seek anyone with a common interest or view among, currently 190 million people. These groupings can become consumer groups, pressure groups, opinion forming groups and political activists.
Internet shopping sites are now emerging at the top of search listings and it is no great surprise to find that Internet auctions such as www.ebay.com are much sought after in this interactive society. On closer examination we find the subjects people look for are very much about life interest. Different search engines have different search profiles. GoTo listed: games, travel, music, sport, jobs, software, map, chat and casino at the most sought for subjects. It may come as a surprise to find that these are hardly nerdish interests but are about ordinary daily life. And sex searches are proportionately on the decline, perhaps as a result of the changing demographics of the new wave of Internet users (18-35 women, children and older men).
Among demographic groups with the highest access are Corporate executives. According to Anderson Consulting, senior executives have become wired. 99% of Canadian Executives have access to the Web while only 97 have access in the UK. In
the UK 71% of executives use the Internet at least once per week (up from 51% in 1998) but only 31% feel comfortable using it. Here is a group that has joined the Internet Society but does not seem to be part of it when compared to the weekly 20
hours of most Netzines.
When looking at Internet behaviour, we should not forget its breadth. Search engines are aimed at different Netzines. www.disinfo.com, for example, offers a ‘different spin on news stories and searches. Yahoo may be big but there is a host of alternatives for the 190 million on-line world-wide.
As in all societies, different people expect and do different things. Keeping up with new ideas and trends is hard. The BBC announced that its ‘News at One’ current affairs programme was to be Webcast in 1999, Web enabled telephony is beginning to take off already. Yes, a year in the Internet Society is a very long time.