Based on a new survey of just over 1,000 US adults, the Pew Research Center has released findings commemorating the 25th anniversary of the web. Pew dates the founding of the web from the publication of Tim Berners-Lee’s seminal paper about a distributed network of computers and documents linked together by “hypertext.”
However the “web” only truly became accessible to people with the advent of the browser with its graphical interface in 1992 – 1993. Regardless, there are a number of interesting findings in the document. Few are surprising save one, which I’ll get to in a bit.
On balance people believe that the internet has been a good thing for society and for them. It’s interesting that more people see it as benefitting them vs. society. That’s somewhat analogous to saying “Congress is bad but I like my representative.”
Most people (70 percent) have experienced positive or “kind” treatment by others online. The picture for younger users is more mixed. The internet has also helped to facilitate communication and strengthen relationships among friends and family members according to the survey. This is one of the points that Facebook repeatedly likes to make about its beneficial role in society.
The report contains a range of findings about computer usage, internet adoption and mobile/smartphone adoption. These technologies are all at near total saturation in the US, except for smartphone adoption.
Smartphone penetration is 58 percent of the total mobile subscriber population according to Pew’s data. That translates into 64 percent of total mobile users in the US. In agreement, both Nielsen and comScore report smartphones penetration at roughly 65 percent (although the Nielsen number is likely higher at this point).
Now for the most interesting and surprising finding of the report. Pew asked survey respondents to rate how difficult it would be to give up various technologies: internet, mobile phones, email, TV, landline phones and social media.
Social media are used, according to Pew, by 73 percent of US adults. However among the technologies and tools represented in the chart above, social media was rated as the easiest to give up.
Only 28 percent of users said social media would be “somewhat hard” or “very hard” to live without. That compares with 73 percent who said “the internet” would be hard to live without.