A recent study sponsored by America Online showed nearly half of Internet users say the medium is becoming just about a necessity.
Other key findings:
- 71 percent of online consumers have been online for fewer than three years and 29 percent have been online for a year or less.
- 77 percent believe the interactive medium has made their lives better.
- 71 percent of those online say they regularly or occasionally go online to get information about products to buy, both on and offline.
- 87 percent say they regularly or occasionally go online to communicate with friends and family and 94 percent say the online medium makes communication with friends and family much or somewhat easier than methods they used before.
- 69 percent of those online feel it "is important for children today to know how to go online and use the Internet." Almost half (47 percent) believe that being online has a more positive influence on their children than watching television (35 percent).
- Of those online, 47 percent take it on vacation.
- 26 percent of online users check e-mail on vacation.
- When asked to imagine being stranded alone on a deserted island for an extended period of time with access to only one of three technologies, 67 percent of those surveyed would prefer to have a computer connected to the Internet, while 23 percent would want a working telephone and 9 percent opted for a television.
And don't think the Internet is just for kids. Consider:
- 56 percent of those older than 50 said they would miss having online access if it were no longer available, compared to 47 percent of those aged 18 to 24.
- The online population over age 50 is more likely to use the medium to manage and plan finances, while those between the ages of 18 and 24 are more likely to use it to socialize.
The business world has been also changed.
- 51 percent prefer using e-mail to communicate with business associates to using the phone (35 percent) or regular mail (5 percent).
The study shows that over the last two years, the online population has grown and now reflects the more upscale mass market.
- Women have sparked the growth of the Internet in the last 12 months-accounting for 57 percent of the new home online subscribers during that period. This trend has boosted women's share of the interactive medium to 47 percent.
- The study reveals the vast majority of online consumers would not characterize themselves as experts. Almost three quarters (73 percent) of the population would characterize themselves as "novices" or at an "intermediate level" of expertise.
- 65 percent of the interactive population is older than 35. These consumers are more likely to have graduated from college, be married, have children under the age of 18 and represent a higher median household income than the American public at large.