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Net user estimates come down to earth

New surveys of Net users have produced more conservative estimates.

A new round of surveys counting Net users is out, but after a long stretch of unrelieved enthusiasm, the figures appear to getting more conservative. Could that mean that they might be more accurate?

Computer Intelligence Infocorp (CII) is the latest to throw out a figure, with an estimate of 15 million Net users in the United States, a number derived from interviews with 11,500 PC users. Eleven million of those people use the Internet for electronic mail, while 2.7 million get online to shop or use commercial services like banking or travel information, according to the survey.

That figure is significantly lower than a widely circulated estimate released last August by Nielsen Media Research and two Vanderbilt University professors that put the number of American users at 22 million. One of the main researchers on the project later revised that tally to 16 million. The new CII number is also less than a Louis Harris and Associates poll completed in January that said 17 million U.S. adults are on the Net.

Market research firm Killen & Associates released a survey of its own today that estimates a worldwide total of 30 million Net users. Killen's survey, entitled "Internet: Global Penetration and Forecast-2000," was based on data gathered from 13 Net companies, including Yahoo, Netcraft, and Digital Equipment's Alta Vista.

As for what those Netizens are using to surf the Web, regardless of their number, a survey from Zona Research released today reaffirms Netscape Navigator's commanding lead in browser market share, with 87 percent of respondents calling it their "primary browser." Microsoft's Internet Explorer came in second, with 4 percent using it as their primary browser.

The survey also indicated, however, that brand name loyalty to Navigator is far from established and that most corporate users have at least two browsers on their desktops. Those corporate users also said their companies have not recommended or required a particular browser.

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