Old Netizens, new tricks

Most Internet users won't pay for information on the Web and are increasingly confident about using credit cards online, a new survey shows.

CNET News staff
3 min read
Most Internet users won't pay for information on the Web, are increasingly confident about using credit cards online, and say they'll browse with Netscape's Navigator for the next year, according to a survey released today by The Graphic, Visualization & Usability Center, an extension of Georgia Tech's College of Computing.

The findings in GVU's sixth user survey are based on the responses of 15,000 Internet users between October and November.

Overall, not much has changed since the last survey six months ago, according to survey team member Colleen Kehoe. But as current trends grow stronger, the future of e-commerce, browser development, and Internet regulation become clearer.

Huge stakeholders in the Net like the World Wide Web Consortium endorsed the survey, and others are cooperate affiliates of GVU, including Intel, Sun Microsystems, NEC, BellSouth, Digital, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Motorola, and Silicon Graphics, to name a few.

Survey respondents were asked for general demographic information and about their Web and Internet usage habits. They were also asked about their feelings about data privacy, censorship, politics, and the security of online transactions.

Generally, respondents were 35 years old; logged on more often from home than from work; paid for access; and almost half use the Web at least once a day. In fact, one in five said they spent 20 hours per week online. As in prior surveys, 70 percent were male and the majority speak English as a first language.

Beyond the general demographics, other patterns that impact the Net industry were stated by the survey.

  • Using a search engine is now the primary method for finding Web pages, versus six months ago when most said they found sites by way of other Web sites.

  • Of both European and U.S users, 80 percent said they expect to use Netscape Navigator to browse for the next 12 months, with only 12 percent reporting allegiance to Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

  • Reference materials are the most frequent type of information accessed on a daily basis. Product information is close behind in popularity. Hardware and software are the products most researched and purchased online.

  • More than two-thirds reported that they were not willing to pay fees for information on the Web. But Kehoe noted that it was hard to tell what people had in mind when they were thinking of a "fee-based" site. She said the question should be better defined.

  • Compared to the last survey, users trust online credit card transactions more, with older users being more cautious than younger people. One in five users said they shop on the Web.

    Kehoe said when it came to cultural and societal issues, the trends followed past surveys. When asked what was the most important issue facing the Net, censorship topped users' concerns. However, as a group, women ranked privacy the top issue while older users were concerned with navigation.

    "We found people are very, very concerned about control over their own information," Kehoe said. "It's kind of a scary medium for most people. They want to know what things are being collected."

    Even though users feared being censored and were leery of sites that asked for personal information, the majority said they think the future for the Net is bright and that the medium has a positive social impact.

    Kehoe expects that the survey results will be examined by market research groups, Web application designers, the technology media, e-commerce companies, and the government.