The latest round of statistics about the internet presents an intriguing picture of how this international medium is evolving. Some of the stats are as expected, but some are surprising.
For help with common problems, more Americans now use the internet than consult experts or family members, according to the latest Pew Internet & American Life Project survey (www.pewinternet.org/ppf/r/231/report_display.asp). Of those surveyed, 58% use the internet compared with 53% who turn to professionals such as doctors, lawyers, or financial experts and 45% who seek out friends and family members.
The Pew survey indicated that 77% of Americans now have internet access, with 64% having broadband access and 13% having slower dial-up access. Those with dial-up access in general are “poorer, older, and less well-educated” than those with broadband access. They are also more likely to rely on television and radio for information than broadband users.
More Americans than ever are using the internet to help them choose the next president, according to Pew. About 24% of Americans say they regularly learn something about the presidential campaign from the internet, which is up from 13% compared to the same time in the 2004 campaign.
The internet may have been invented by Americans, but other countries are currently taking to it with more enthusiasm, according to a new Harris Interactive survey done for Symantec. The U.S., though, remains near the top. (For a brief overview of the survey, visit www.symantec.com/norton/theme2.jsp?themeid=nolr.)
The Chinese by far are the most active bloggers among the eight countries surveyed. In China, 86% of adults with online access spend time on their personal blogs, compared with 44% in Brazil, 39% in Japan, 20% in the U.S., 19% in the U.K., 18% in France, 17% in Australia, and 13% in Germany.
Along with putting information out there, other countries are also more active in retrieving news and opinion. In Brazil, 93% of adults online spend time following news sites and blogs, compared with 92% in China, 83% in Japan, 77% in the U.S., 76% in France, 75% in Australia, 71% in Germany, and 66% in the U.K.
The U.K. leads the way with online shopping, with 96% of online users there buying merchandise online. This compares with 93% in Germany, 90% in the U.S. and Japan, 89% in France, 86% in China, 84% in Australia, and 81% in Brazil.
Personal finance isn’t quite as popular as shopping as an internet activity, but the majority of online users in the countries surveyed have handled some financial transactions online. China leads the way here, with 87% of adults online doing online banking or paying bills online at least sometimes. This is followed by 85% in the U.K., 84% in France, 81% in Australia, 79% in the U.S., 78% in Germany, 74% in Japan, and 68% in Brazil.
When it comes to making friends online, the Chinese are also out front, with 84% having online access doing so. This compares with 77% for Brazil, 54% for Australia, 45% for the U.S. and Germany, 42% for the U.K., 38% for Japan, and 31% for France.
Among the newly emerging internet activities is watching or downloading movies. In the U.S. 41% of adults and 46% of children online do this at least sometimes. In China the figures are 97% of adults and 96% of children. China also leads the world in downloading music, with 97% of adults and 98% of kids online doing so. In the U.S. the figures are 56% for adults as well as children.
As you might expect, the most popular internet activity among kids is playing games. In the U.S. 96% of kids and 74% of adults online play games. In China, the figures are 99% for kids and 95% for adults.
Despite problems with spam, viruses, and phishing, email remains the most popular internet activity among adults, with 97% to 99% of adults online in all the countries surveyed exchanging email.
According to the most recent Nelson survey on the subject, the 10 most popular websites in the U.S. in order are Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, MSN/Windows Live, AOL Media Network, YouTube, Fox Interactive Media, Amazon, eBay, and Apple. Google leads the way with searching, being used for 56.3% of all web searches compared with 17.7% for Yahoo! and 13.8% for MSN/Windows Live Search.
Reid Goldsborough is a freelance writer based in Pennsylvania.