Just An Online Minute... The Boom In Aimless Surfing

Web users today are more inclined to go online simply to kill some time, thanks to the growth of broadband, combined with the explosion of online content, according to new research by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Almost one in three Web users, 30 percent, now go online on any given day without a specific task in mind, according to a Pew study released this week. For the study, researchers asked around 3,000 adults last December whether they went online for no particular reason, for fun, or to pass the time, on the day before. Thirty percent said yes--a hefty increase from the 21 percent who answered yes in November 2004.

Broadband users and young adults were more likely to turn to the Web without particular reasons than were dial-up users or senior citizens. Thirty-nine percent of broadband users said they had gone online the day before the survey for no specific reason, compared to just 23 percent of those who connected via dial-up links. And 37 percent of respondents between the ages 18 and 29 went online on an average day for no particular reason, compared to 31 percent of those between 30 and 49, 25 percent of people 50 to 64 years old, and 20 percent of people 65 and older. Overall, the proportion of Web users who have ever gone online for no particular reason has hovered around 66 percent since 2001.



Pew also reported that Web content had increased dramatically in the last several years. Consider: there are now 65 million Web sites, up from 17 million in 2000, according to the report.

As to whether the trend will continue, researchers hedged. Perhaps, they said, as Web content and broadband use continue to grow, "this moment marks the beginning of a trend of increasing everyday Web surfing," states the report. On the other hand, the report continues, "perhaps the rise in Web surfing on any given day marks an uptick that has hit an upper limit."

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