The purpose of this lesson is to discuss the extent of the Internet and characteristics of its users.
How Big is the Internet?
There are tens of millions of registered Internet domain names. Each domain name could potentially be a Web site, or a serve thousands, tens of thousands, or one person for electronic mail.
|Number of Domains||Date|
|30,659,294||August 25, 2002|
|31,846,957||February 23, 2002|
|36,128,636||October 7, 2001|
|33,796,311||December 17, 2000|
|10,910,997||September 28, 1999|
The Internet Software Consortium has come up with a different measure by counting distinct Internet hosts (not just domain names). You can look at their graph of Internet hosts. These hosts could each be a Web site, a mail gateway, or just one machine in a campus network of a university or corporation.
What does all this add up to? The Internet has grown very quickly by any measure. However, difficulties in the Internet industry have led to a dampening of the frenzy for domain names since 2001.
This reduced frenzy for domain names does not mean however, the Internet is "dead." On the contrary, sales are up for online commerce and Internet use still claims a large portion of user's time. What has happened is a shakeout of the industry: the incompetent Web sites of the 1990's have collapsed, while those Web sites with something to offer have found an audience.
What does the Internet look like?
Check out this collection of cybermaps.
Who is Online and Why?
A number of research organizations study Internet demographics. Their reports give a fascinating picture of the evolving nature of the online user.
- Pew Internet & American Life Project
The Pew Internet & American Life Project researches the impact of the Internet on people, communities, the workplace and civic life. The project's Web site offers a wealth of free and very detailed reports that profile Internet use and trends.
Some Pew research has overturned stereotypes. For example, one project found that Internet users are far from antisocial nerds. In fact, they found that Internet users have more extensive social lives than non-users. Another project challenged the notion that everyone will eventually be online. Research found that 57% of people who did not already have Internet access did not plan to get access. In the spring of 2001, a Pew study confirmed again that the gender gap in Internet access has narrowed: of the 104 million American adults with Internet access, 50.6% are women.
Cyberatlas is a directory that links to research involving online retailing trends, finance and advertising news. The "Stats Toolbox" section allows you to easily select the kind of statistics you need, such as demographic usage statistics, online populations, browser statistics, top Web properties and more.
The links to the statistics in each case identify the research organization(s) behind the numbers. Fascinating nuggets among these statistics abound. For example, an Arbitron/Edison Media Research study in 2001 found that one-third of Americans with Internet access at home would give up television if forced to choose between television and the Internet.
A September 2000 Nielsen/NetRatings study found that the top three cities in terms of the percentage of households accessing the Internet from home with a personal computer were: San Francisco (66%), Seattle (64%) and San Diego (62%). Milwaukee came in 30th at 46%, right between 29th place Chicago (46%) and 31st place Minneapolis (45%).
Using a magazine-style format, eMarketer keeps you up to date on the latest trends in online marketing and demographics with news, feature stories and reference information. While much of the content is free to browse, detailed and specific reports cost money. For example, a 335-page March 2001 eCommerce report costs $795. This is not an atypical price for a detailed and current online demographic study in key business areas.
The free content in the eMarketer news sections, however, provides a great service for tracking the shape of online business and marketing. For example, in the news section, a link to an American Demographics (http://www.demographics.com) article characterizes the online population as shifting away from a majority of "geeky white guys" to a far more diverse population, with the highest growth being among the "Walmart crowd"-Americans over 55 years old with working-class incomes and middlebrow tastes.
- Internet Geography Project
If you are fascinated with the geographical dispersion of the Internet audience, this site is for you. Tackling the complex task of measuring Internet users and domains by geographic region, this site is a project of Matthew Zook of the University of California, Berkeley Department of City and Regional Planning. Included in the analysis are some fascinating maps showing the dispersion of the 377 million Internet users worldwide as of September 2000.
Zook also tracks the number of Internet domains by state. A January 2001 count of Internet domain names ending in "dot com" showed California and New York on top with 1,843,900 and 721,725 domain names respectively. Wisconsin came in at number 25 with 105,600 domain names. In terms of the growth of total domain names registered from July 1998 to January 2001, Wisconsin came in 49th, ahead only of Kansas.
- Nua Internet Surveys
Based in Ireland, Nua is a Web publishing software company that has gained widespread attention for its Internet Surveys Web site. Its surveys and news links give a comprehensive overview of many measures of Internet audience size and activity. Nua's site also organizes survey results by industry sector-ranging from advertising and the auto industry to telecommunications and travel. Weekly editorials, bi-monthly reports and year in review sections round out the site.
- Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society
While not focused entirely on the Internet, this Stanford research group has conducted some notable studies about the social impact of Internet use. A major study of the social consequences of the Internet looked at a representative sample of 4,113 adults in 2,689 American households. A key finding of this study, according to Institute director Professor Norman Nie, was that "the more hours people use the Internet, the less time they spend in contact with real human beings."
The Stanford study also found that 25% of respondents work at home on the Internet without a corresponding reduction their office work. Stanford also found shifts in media use with 60% of regular Internet users who have reduced their television viewing time to instead spend time online.
- Sloan Center for Internet Retailing
- Located at the University of California, Riverside, this center studies online retailing. It conducts research and educates students in Internet retailing.
- According to Nielsen/NetRatings (April 2002), there are close to half a billion people worldwide with Internet access of some kind, and a quarter billion people who are active users.
- Users of the Internet include a disproportionately larger number of people from the developed world. (Source: Cyberatlas.)
- More women than men use the Internet in the United States and Canada, but this balance is the opposite in other countries (Source: Cyberatlas.)
- The average age of users is middle age (37-40) or older. The idea that the Net is used primarily by young teenagers or young people is a gross misconception that has been around almost since the start of the Internet. In fact, The tenth Georgia Tech demographic survey showed the average age of an Internet user at 37.6 years old. And this was an increase from 35.1 years old in the ninth survey. The surveys have shown an average age of Internet users of around than 35 years old since the surveys started. In October, 2000, the research firm Gartner Group found the average U.S. Internet user is 41 years old with an income of $65,000. According to a U.S. Government study released in 2002, A Nation Online: How Americans Are Expanding Their Use Of The Internet, Internet users in the United States from age 9 to 17 number 25.5 million while U.S. Internet users age 18 and over number 110.7 million--the younger group is outnumbered by almost five to one by the adults.
Exercise: What is your perception of the Internet's size, extent, and demographics?
What stereotypes of Internet users have you held? Does everybody have access to and use the Internet? Does everybody have a Web site?