The Web: Just for Fun

The combination of broadband saturation in U.S. homes paired with compelling online content has lead to casual Internet usage. Data released by Pew Internet & American Life Project suggest an increase in Internet users who surf the Web with no specific intent.

“for a casual Web surfer — someone who is looking to fill time, kill time, hang out — that translates into the Web being a very interesting place to go,” said Deborah Fallows, senior research fellow at Pew Internet & American Life Project. “A destination in an of itself. You can be sure that if you as a Web surfer just show up, you’ll find something to do there.”

Internet users with broadband at home (39 percent) are more likely than dial-up users (23 percent) to casually surf.

Roughly 40 million people go online for fun on a typical day. The majority of surfers in this category are men (34 percent); 26 percent of women go online with no clear purpose.

Young adults are the most likely demographic to consume the casual Web. Thirty-seven percent of 18 to 29 year-olds go online for fun on a typical day. Thirty-one percent of those age 30 to 49, and 24 percent of adults over age 50, are likely to brows the Web for enjoyment rather than function.

Time spent using the Internet is another factor in casual browse habits. Thirty-six percent of Internet users with six or more years tenure online tend to surf for no particular reason. In contrast, 15 percent of people online for three years or less are inclined to surf during their free time.

“The measure of Web surfing is interesting as a measure of intention or puppose. People have always gone online with purpose: to do email, look for an answer to a question, research a product, to pay their bills. Now people (in greater numbers on any given day) are saying they also go online for no particular reason at all — just to look around,” said fallows. “Where they land is certainly all of the above and a lot more.”

Web Surfing and Broadband Penetration Chronology March 2000 December 2005
Click on graphic to view chart

The data are based on the findings of a daily tracking survey of Americans’ Internet use. Telephone surveys were conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International in December. The survey sample was 3,011 adults over 18.

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