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What Do People Do Online?

Guest post by Johnathan Blakely, Broadbandsearch.net

Since the internet became mainstream in the 1990s, it has rapidly become an integral part of our lives. Most of us can’t go more than an hour without checking our phones, and “Google It!” has become a part of our daily language.

However, a fair question to ask is: what do people actually do online?

The internet is such a vast ocean of information that one can do pretty much anything. But despite having so much at our fingertips, most of us use the internet for the same core activities.

Broadband Search has compiled stats about internet use in 2019, and these numbers can help us wrap our head around not only how much we use the internet, but also why we spend so much time on the web.

You can read the full report here, but to save you some time, here are some of the highlights.

Search

Due to the ubiquity of the phrase “Google it,” it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that people use the internet mainly to search for information. In fact, Google is the number one most-visited site in the world, according to the Alexa rankings.

Pinning down exactly what people search for is difficult, but here’s a list of the most common search terms people use along with the search volumes for each:

  • weather (24.4 million)
  • maps (20.4 million)
  • translate (18.3 million)
  • calculator (16.2 million)
  • YouTube to MP3 (13.7 million)

These terms are just the most popular. Overall, Google processes more than 3.5 billion searches every single day, which is equivalent to more than 1.2 trillion searches per year.

Videos

The next most common thing people do on the internet is watch videos. YouTube is obviously a huge part of this. It’s ranked number two on the Alexa ranking, behind Google and in front of Facebook. YouTube has more than 1 billion unique monthly visitors.

But YouTube isn’t the only place people go for video content. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime all receive tons of traffic. 45 percent of people globally watch at least one hour of online video content per day.

Social Media

Some may be surprised to see this is not the number one thing people do online. However, that it’s not in the top spot is not an indicator that social media is not popular. Overall, there are more than 3 billion social media users around the world.

With more than 2 billion active users, Facebook is the most popular platform. Next is Facebook Messenger and Instagram (both owned by Facebook), and then Twitter, LinkedIn, and SnapChat.

In total, Facebook is the third most visited site in the world behind Google and YouTube.

Shop

After searching, watching videos, and perusing social media, shopping is the most common online activity.

The world of e-commerce has seen significant growth over the years as more and more people get used to the comfort and convenience of shopping online.

To give you an idea, consider that global e-commerce sales last year were more than 650 billion. And things are not expected to slow down. Soon, e-commerce could be the leader in the retail space.

Conclusion

Most of use the internet to search for information, watch videos, check up on friends and family, and shop. However, as the web continues to advance and offer more features, perhaps we’ll find new ways to use this awesome tool in the future.

We Still (Mostly) Like the Internet

A Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults conducted in January 2018 finds the vast majority of internet users (88%) say the internet has been a mostly good thing for them personally.

However, Americans are somewhat more ambivalent about the impact of digital connectivity on society as a whole. A majority of online adults (70%) believe the internet has been a good thing for society. The share of online adults saying this has declined by 6 percentage points since early 2014, when the Center first asked the question.

This shift in opinion regarding the ultimate social impact of the internet is particularly stark among older Americans. Today 64% of online adults ages 65 and older say the internet has been a mostly good thing for society. That represents a 14-point decline from the 78% who said this in 2014. The attitudes of younger adults have remained more consistent over that time: 74% of internet users ages 18 to 29 say the internet has been mostly good for society, comparable to the 79% who said so in 2014.

 

Positive Views Are Tied to Information Access and Connecting with Others

Those who think the internet has had a good impact on society tend to focus on two key issues:

  • 62% of those with a positive view mentioned how the internet makes information much easier and faster to access
  • 23% of those with a positive view mentioned the ability to connect with other people

By contrast, those who think the internet is a bad thing for society gave a wider range of reasons for their opinions:

  • 25% say the internet isolates people from each other or encourages them to spend too much time with their devices
  • 14% cite concerns about its effect on children
  • 13% believe it encourages illegal activity
  • 5% have privacy concerns or worries about sensitive personal information being available online

Many are Smartphone Internet Users at Home

One-in-five Americans (20%) are now “smartphone only” internet users at home. They own a smartphone but do not subscribe to traditional broadband service for home use. This represents a 7-point increase over 2015.

As has consistently been true in past surveys conducted by Pew, those who rely on their smartphones for home internet service are less likely to have attended college compared with those with traditional broadband service. They also report living in lower-income households.

Also, 15% of Americans indicate that they have neither broadband service at home nor a smartphone. A large share of this group is not online at all.

See the full Pew report.