Media Metrix Chronicles “History” of the Internet

To mark its third anniversary as a digital media measurement firm, Media Metrix said it is issuing a series of data summaries to highlight the depth and breadth of its Internet audience usage information.

In its first release, the company offered up a historical review of Internet audience behavior covering the growth years from 1996 through the present. And what a difference a few years have made.

“Media Metrix has chronicled the transformation of the Internet, from its early years as a ‘techno-network,’ with little media savvy, to a thriving global network of two-way content, communications, community and commerce today,” said Steve Coffey, executive vice president of Media Metrix.

“Among our observations are that today’s top ranking destinations, which have maintained their standing since 1996, had their genesis in new media, not in traditional media.”

According to Media Metrix, the number of households with working PCs increased by over 40 percent (from 35.4 million to 50 million), while the number of households with modem access more than doubled (from 18.2 million to 37.7 million) from January 1996–when the company first began “metering” Internet audience behavior–to January 1999.

In January 1996, Media Metrix found the demographic profile of Internet users to be predominantly male, with men 18 years of age and older representing 82 percent of all users, while only 18 percent were female. In 1999 the gender gap has vanished, with the ratio of males to females 18 years or older now equal (50:50).

In 1996, education sites, where most visitors searched for content, dominated the top 15 rankings followed by ISPs and navigation sites; in contrast to 1999, there were no e-commerce sites among the top 15 three years ago.

In 1999 nearly all of the top destinations offer content, communications, community and commerce; the first site with a .edu extension (University of Michigan) ranked No. 92 in January 1999.

Only three of the top 15 sites in Media Metrix’ January 1996 rankings remain on the list in January 1999: AOL.com, Yahoo.com and Netscape.com.

Media Metrix offers monthly, weekly and real-time data collection and reporting and has a sample of more than 40,000 people under measurement.

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