According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, the use of a search engine is now the number two activity for web users. Use of search engines in the US has risen sharply since mid-2004 - from 30 per cent of the US web population in July 2004 to its current level of 41 per cent. Also, the research found that those who are more likely to spend more time on search engines are in their 30s and well off.

The report added: "Those who use search engines on an average day tend to be heavy internet users. They are much more likely to have broadband connections than dial-up connections; to log on to the internet several times a day; and to have spent considerable time online during the day."