Though it might be a while until the Net finds its way into 98 percent of American households, where television is, it is firmly out of new-adopter territory, according to a survey released today.
By the end of this year, 18 percent of all households will be hooked up to the Net, up from 13 percent last year. And by the year 2001, that number will rise to 38 percent, according to research firm International Data Corporation (IDC).
That translates to 17.7 million households online this year and 40 million online by 2001, according to IDC, which bases its numbers and projections on an annual survey of 2,500 households as well as other research.
Whereas a year ago, analysts talked about the market being filled with early adopters, this year "it's reaching mass-market proportions," said Jill Frankle, senior analyst with IDC. "I think '98 will be another big year. As you have more and more content come online, it's really becoming something that people want to use on a daily basis. It's no longer your early adopters online. It's children and mass market."
The top draw to the Net, however, is still email, followed by news and product information. Entertainment is still a low priority, Frankle said, reiterating the popular notion among analysts that it will remain so until increased bandwidth allows super-fast access.
She added that not everyone is getting onto the Net through PCs and dial-up access. Some are accessing it through television set-top devices or even cellular phones with Net hook-ups.
Those who have access also are using it on a regular basis. Sixty percent of the households online were accessing the Net at least once each day, Frankle said.
The driving forces behind the continued rise in Internet popularity include people learning about the Net at work and wanting it at home and people wanting email and information. Falling PC prices also are giving people more access to the Net.
But there still are barriers to entry: PCs still are a lot more expensive than television sets and are more difficult to use. "There still needs to be a bit of education," Frankle said.
Surprisingly, few of those surveyed said they were avoiding the Net because of privacy or security concerns. Most said they were staying offline because they didn't see a reason to go online or they didn't really understand what the Internet is.
"There's sort of a lack of knowledge. As people become educated from work, or children, those reasons will dissipate," Frankle said.