E-mail, VoIP Span Net Activities List

Online communication methods made the very top and the very bottom of the list of Internet activities, as measured by Harris Interactive. According to the poll of U.S. Internet users, conducted during December 2003, the majority of respondents use email regularly, while very few participate in chat rooms or make phone calls via the Web.

Harris Interactive found that roughly two-thirds of respondents sent or received email often or very often – a decline from December 2000 when nearly three-quarters of survey participants had the same response. At the other end of the spectrum, only 5 percent reportedly participated in chat rooms often or very often, compared to 6 percent in December 2000, and a mere 3 percent made online phone calls often or very often.

Online voice communications may become more available amidst reports that Vonage, an Internet phone service provider, will begin selling its wares through retailer Circuit City. Using a broadband connection, a regular phone, and an adapter, Vonage expects its service to rival traditional phone service through discount pricing and recent improvements to quality.

Joseph Laszlo, senior analyst, broadband and wireless, Jupiter Research (a unit of this site’s corporate parent), comments on the arrangement between Circuit City and Vonage: “We’ve always thought that IP telephony really takes off only when it’s invisible – e.g., easy to use, connects via a standard telephone handset, and lets you call anyone else, whether they’re connected via a circuit phone or a [Voice over Internet Protocol] VoIP [define] connection. Vonage is the first high profile offering to fit this bill, differentiating it from some other VoIP providers, like Skype, which are much more limited in their value proposition.”

However, Laszlo doesn’t expect mainstream availability will aid VoIP adoption: “At the end of the day, though, Vonage’s impact on this market is likely to be limited. What will really drive VoIP adoption will be offerings from cable operators and existing, traditional telcos. Their offers will be tightly bundled with broadband, pay TV, and other communications services, and they will have marketing might that will put any upstart telco to shame.”

While VoIP still has a long road toward mainstream adoption, a number of other activities are also struggling for increased penetration. Roughly half of all respondents indicated that they have never played or downloaded games, or used the Internet for financial management and investing, and one-third have not logged on for travel planning or reservations.

Internet Activities Never Performed
Make phone calls 87%
Take courses 75%
Participate in chat groups 74%
Search for a job 61%
Pay bills 60%
Financial management and investing 53%
Download or play games 49%
Find and download software 47%
Make travel plans and reservations 33%
Source: Harris Interactive

Among the activities that measured the greatest increases from 2000 to 2003: information gathering about products and services; research for work or school; obtaining information on local amusements and activities; and exploring new and different sites.

Internet Activities Performed Often or Very Often
Activity Dec. 2003 Dec. 2000 Change
Gather information about products and services 41% 25% +16
Research for work or school 45% 37% +8
Explore new and different sites 32% 24% +8
Obtain information on local amusements and activities 19% 11% +8
Source: Harris Interactive

“Our general reaction to this research is that people are finding different uses for the Internet, other than email,” said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of the Harris Poll, Harris Interactive.

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