Internet use still growing like crazy

Sunday, June 7, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

This week's column is for those who still think the Internet is a passing fad. Sometimes, when my Web browser software mysteriously crashes or I waste the better part of an evening fighting busy signals and Web traffic, I think the Internet should be a passing fad. Or will become a passing fad if things don't improve.

But that thinking is as silly as believing that highway traffic jams will force people to abandon their cars in favor of mass transit.

In fact, the Internet continues to grow by leaps and bounds. And as many predicted, commerce appears to be the driving force behind the growth.

Here are a few random tidbits from market research firms that specialize in tracking Internet usage and trends:

  • ZD Market Intelligence, which collects "fact-based information" about the Internet, reports that almost 45 million PCs in the United States access the Internet regularly. In January 1996, 18.6 million PCs accessed the Internet; in January 1998, that number was 44.6 million, a 140 percent increase.

    ZD recently completed a study of PC use in 50,000 households (http://www.ci.zd.com). The ZD study estimates that one in three workplace computers and one of every two home computers now access the Internet.

    "In just two years, the Internet has become a home-PC mainstay," ZD senior industry analyst Dave Tremblay said.

    Online buying grows

  • According to Relevant Knowledge (http://www.relevantknowledge.com), Mother's Day brought an avalanche of visitors to Web sites that sell flowers. Visitors during the week preceding Mothers' Day (May 4-10) exceeded total visitors for the entire month of April.

    "This is evidence that traditional gift-giving is moving to the Web," said Ted Hawthorne, a vice president at Relevant Knowledge. Another interesting fact: Women outnumbered men in buying Mother's Day gifts online; 61 percent of flower customers and 82 percent of greeting card customers were female.

  • Gateway President Jeff Weitzen is quoted by ZD Market Intelligence as saying that Gateway sales over the Web hit $4 million a day in the company's fourth fiscal quarter. Dell, the other online computer sales giant, last month reported that sales in the latest fiscal quarter increased 52 percent to almost $4 billion.

  • In the browser wars, the latest data from the Georgia Tech GVU Center (http://www.gvu.gatech.edu/user_surveys/), which conducts regular surveys of Internet users, is not good news for Netscape. According to the survey, most people get their browser software from software bundles that come with their computer or their Internet connection kit. And most users never switch browsers.

    "Given these new findings, it is not surprising to see the slow but steady emergence of Internet Explorer as market share is gained primarily from new users who receive the browser bundled as part of other computer-related purchases," the study noted.

    Netscape usage falling

    The ZD study also noted the decrease in Netscape's market share, estimating it at about 50 percent currently, and predicting that Explorer will gain the dominant position this year.

  • The same Georgia Tech survey found that most people who used the Web for personal shopping did so for convenience (65 percent), availability of vendor information (60 percent), no pressure from salespeople (55 percent) and saving time (53 percent).

  • The top five Web sites accessed from home computers are AOL.com, Yahoo.com, Netscape.com, GeoCities.com and Microsoft.com, and the top five access from work computers are Yahoo.com, Netscape.com, AOL.com, Excite.com and Microsoft.com, according to figures compiled by Media Metrix (http://www.mediametrix.com).

    The company also surveyed the top software titles used on home computers, and it's almost a Microsoft sweep. The top 10 software titles are: MS Office, MS Word, Notepad, MS Entertainment Pack, MS Works, InstallShield, Freecell, Interplay Solitaire, Quicken and MS Solitaire.

    Considering people once used a typewriter and a pack of cards to accomplish the same things, perhaps computers could be a passing fad?

    Send e-mail to Charles Brewer at CBrewer@enquirer.com.