One of the most striking pieces of evidence of how the Web has become woven into people's everyday lives is the amount of time people spend on the Internet and the frequency with which they go online. The timescape looks like this: Every day 60% of those who have Internet access, some 55 million Americans, go online. Of the people who go online on an average day, 56% logged on exclusively from home, 21% logged on exclusively from work, and 20% logged on from home and
work. Half of the Internet users (56%) who go online on any given day spend an hour or more online during all their online sessions; 36% said they had spent a half hour to an hour; and about a quarter said they had spent less than a half hour.
People who are new to the Internet spend less time online than veterans. Some 35% of people who have come online in the past 6 months logged on for less than a half hour per day, compared with 20% of people who have been on the Internet for more than a year who spent a relatively small amount of time online. Some 61% of people who have been Internet users for more than a year spend an hour or more online. About 46% who have come online in the past six months spend an hour or more per day online.
More than half of those who have Internet access at home (52%) go online once a day or more often. Two-thirds of those who access the Internet from work go online once a day or more often.
Internet veterans: A breed apart
A core of veteran users—the 28% of Internet aficionados who have been online for more than three years—are increasingly integrating the Internet into their routines. These 26 million Americans are one third of those who go online on any given day. More than half of this group (54%) have Internet access from home and work and half (51%) log on several times a day. On any given day, a veteran is substantially more likely to spend two or more hours on line than a nonveteran is.
The veterans’ cohort reflects some of the demographic characteristics of Internet users at the dawn of the Web in the mid-1990s. This group is composed of more males than females, more whites than minorities, more college graduates than those with less education, and more Americans making over $75,000 than those earning lower incomes.
Their involvement with the Internet is tied to two big trends: First, the Internet has become an important job-related tool for veteran users. Nearly two-thirds of them (64%) report going online to conduct research for their jobs. That contrasts with the 29% of newcomers (those who have been online for less than six months) who have done job-related research online. A similarly high proportion of the Internet longtimers (62%) have done research for school or training online, compared to 42% of Internet newcomers who have done this. For school or job-training research, the fairly high share of new users who do such research on the Internet suggests that the Internet is widely viewed as an indispensable tool to gain the requisite skills for the “knowledge economy.”
The second trend is that veterans find that the Internet helps them manage important aspects of their lives. Compared to those just starting to use the Internet, high proportions of veterans have bought products, purchased travel services, bought and sold stocks, banked online, and participated in online auctions. Overall, 38% of veteran users say the Internet has helped improve management of their personal finances, as opposed to 11% of new users. And 43% of veteran users report that the Internet has improved their ability to shop, versus 21% of new users.
Despite the continuing growth of the Internet population, about half of Americans do not go online, and as a group they are somewhat different from Internet users. In general, these nonusers are older, more likely to be female, less wealthy, less likely to be employed and less educated than Internet users. African-Americans in particular lag in their representation among those online.
Almost half (49%) of non-Internet users are over the age of 50. The difference in educational levels is also striking; 70% of non-Internet users have a high school education or less, and only 12% are college graduates. Not surprisingly, lower income people are less likely to go online; 37% of non-users have family incomes under $30,000.
With respect to race, even the rapid increase of African-American Internet users has not prevented that group from having a disproportionately high number of non-Internet users. About 35% of African-Americans are online, compared to 50% of whites and 46% of Hispanics. The survey does show that African-Americans are coming online at a faster pace than whites. Of all African-American Internet users, 30% have come online within the last six months compared with 16% of the white Internet population. Put differently, fully 14% of those who started going online in the last six months are African-American.
Some 14% of non-Internet users are African-American, a substantial difference from the 8% of all Internet users who are African-American. In contrast, the increase in Internet use by Hispanics has brought their proportion of the online population in synch with their proportion of the overall U.S. population.