Search and email remain the top online activities

By on August 10, 2011, 6:30 PM

The Internet has evolved in ways that most of us would never have conceived a decade ago, but the most popular online activities for adults have remained unchanged for years. A new study by Pew Internet & American Life Project shows that two online tasks, searching and emailing, have remained at the top of the list since 2002.

A May 2011 survey shows that 92 percent of online adults use search engines to find information and that 59 percent do so on an average day.  Email is tied with web searches as the most popular activity, with 61 percent of web-goers using it on a typical day.

Search is most popular among younger crowds and those with higher educations and income levels. Senior citizens are less likely to use search engines on a daily basis at only 27 percent.

An increase in population and the availability of computers and the Internet have skewed usage numbers as well. In 2002, only 52 percent of all Americans used search engines. The latest survey shows that number has now reached 72 percent. For the same time period, email usage increased from 55 percent to 70 percent.

Americans are also using the web to gather news and buy products online more than in the past, but the biggest increase in activity comes from social networking.

Social networking sites were only responsible for 11 percent of online activity in 2005. That number has risen sharply to 65 percent this year. If the trend continues, social networking could become more popular than news gathering and online shopping in the near future.

Pew gathered search figures from phone surveys of 2,277 adults in May. Email numbers were gathered last November from 2,257 adults.

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