Three major technology revolutions have occurred during the period the Pew Research Center has been studying digital technology – and yet more are on the horizon.

Broadband

First, the rise of the internet changed the way that people got information and shared it with each other, affecting everything from users’ basic social relationships to the way that they work, learn, and take care of themselves. The speed of internet connectivity picked up considerably with the rise of broadband connections. As people adopted those higher-speed, always-on connections, they became different internet users: They spent more time online, performed more activities, watched more video, and themselves become content creators.

Broadband vs. Dial-up Adoption Over Time

Dial-up Broadband
6/2000 34 3
4/2001 41 6
3/2002 38 11
3/2003 37 16
4/2004 30 24
3/2005 28 33
3/2006 23 42
3/2007 15 47
4/2008 10 55
4/2009 7 62
5/2010 5 64
8/2011 3 62
4/2012 3 66
12/2012 3 65
5/2013 3 70
9/2013 2 70

Pew Research Center

Mobile

Second, mobile connectivity through cell phones, and later smartphones and tablet computers, made any time-anywhere access to information a reality for the vast majority of Americans. Mobile devices have changed the way people think about how and when they can communicate and gather information by making just-in-time and real-time encounters possible. They have also affected the way people allocate their time and attention.

Device Ownership Over Time

Year Cellphone Smartphone eBook Reader Tablet Computer Desktop or laptop computer mp3 player Game console
5/2000 53 -- -- -- -- -- --
4/2002 64 -- -- -- -- -- --
5/2004 68 -- -- -- 71 -- --
4/2006 73 -- -- -- 72 20 --
12/2007 75 -- -- -- 75 34 --
4/2008 78 -- -- -- 74 37 --
4/2009 85 -- 2 -- 78 45 41
9/2009 84 -- 3 -- 75 43 37
5/2010 82 -- 4 3 79 46 42
9/2010 85 -- 5 4 76 47 42
5/2011 83 35 12 8 77 44 --
8/2011 84 -- 9 10 76 -- --
1/2012 87 -- 19 19 -- -- --
2/2012 88 45 -- -- -- -- --
4/2012 88 46 18 18 80 -- --
8/2012 89 -- -- 25 -- -- --
9/2012 85 45 -- -- -- -- --
11/2012 85 47 -- -- 78 -- --
12/2012 87 45 24 29 -- 42 42
1/2013 -- -- 26 31 -- 43 43
5/2013 91 56 -- 34 -- -- --
9/2013 -- 55 24 35 -- -- --
1/2014 90 58 32 42 -- -- --
10/2014 -- 64 -- -- -- -- --

Pew Research Center

Social

Third, the rise of social media and social networking has affected the way that people think about their friends, acquaintances, and even strangers. People have always have social networks of family and friends that helped them. The new reality is that as people create social networks in technology spaces, those networks are often bigger and more diverse than in the past. Social media allow people to plug into those networks more readily and more broadly – making them persistent and pervasive in ways that were unimaginable in the past. One of the major impacts was that the traditional boundaries between private and public, between home and work, between being a consumer of information and producer of it were blurred.

Social Media Use Over Time

Date All internet users
2/2005 8
8/2006 16
5/2008 29
4/2009 47
5/2010 61
8/2011 64
12/2012 67
5/2013 72
9/2013 73
1/2014 74

Pew Research Center