Americans increasingly use the Internet to conduct research for their jobs, to make transactions, and share worries and seek advice through emails

WASHINGTON, D.C.-As Americans gain experience online, they use the Internet more for their jobs, to make more online purchases and carry out other financial transactions, and to write emails with more significant and intimate content.

A new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project compares a group of Internet users” online behavior between March 2000 and March 2001. The report on these findings, called “Getting Serious Online,” shows that over time Internet users become more purposeful, efficient, and self-assured in using the Web and email to support some of life”s most important activities.

“The Internet has gone from novelty to utility for many Americans,” says Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project. “They are beginning to take it for granted, but they can”t imagine life without it.”

Greater use of the Internet at work is one major reason for this increased seriousness online. In a separate survey in January 2002, we found that 55 million Americans now go online from work, up from 43 million who went online at work in March 2000. The longitudinal research shows that on a typical day, 36% of Americans with Internet access on the job were doing work-related research in March 2001, up from 25% a year earlier. Further, 44% of those who have Internet access at work say online tools improve their ability to do their jobs.

Other examples of Americans increasingly significant use of the Internet:

Large growth in serious email
The use of email for sharing worries or seeking advice is now routine among Internet users. By March 2001, 51 million Americans had emailed family members for advice, up from 30 million in 2000-a 70% increase in a year. Similarly, 51 million Americans said they had emailed a friend for advice, compared to 32 million Americans who had done this by March 2000. This pattern extends to emailing family members to express worries, with about 40 million American having done this in March 2001, compared to 25 million a year earlier.

“It”s easy to see how people take advantage of a growing network,” says John B. Horrigan, Senior Research Specialist with the Pew Internet Project. “Each friend who gets Internet access and each grandmother who sends her first email builds the community of Internet users. The larger the community gets, the more likely it is that people will turn to email to share intimate and crucial communications.”

More online transactions
The share of Internet users who had bought products online grew from 47% of Internet users in March 2000 to 53% in March 2001. The proportion who had purchased travel services had grown from 34% to 42%. The number who had done online banking grew from 17% to 23%. And the percent of those who had participated in online auctions grew from 14% to 20%. People also expanded their range of online activities over the course of the year from an average of 11 to 14 different types of uses of the Internet.

Americans” more serious approach to the Internet has been accompanied by evidence of increasing efficiency online and shifts in the allocation in time between online and offline activities. An average surfer spent 7 fewer minutes online during a typical day”s activity online in March 2001 than in March 2000. In addition:

  • 29% Internet users who have bought something online said their Internet use has resulted in their spending less time shopping in stores.
  • 25% of Internet users said they spend less time watching television because of the Internet.
  • 14% of Internet users said their time online has decreased the time they spend reading newspapers.
  • 14% of Internet users said the Net increased the amount of time they spent working at home. And 10% say their use of the Internet increases the amount of time they spend at the office.

    The Pew Internet & American Life Project”s new report is based on a survey of 1,501 Americans from March 1 through March 31, 2001. Some 57% of them were Internet users. These same people had been interviewed by the Project”s polling partner, Princeton Survey Research Associates, between March 1 and March 31, 2000. At that time, 46% of them were Internet users. The margin of error in this survey is plus or minus three percentage points.

    The Pew Internet & American Life Project is a nonpartisan, independent research organization funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts to study the impact of the Internet on families, communities, health care, education, civic and political life, and the work place.