But the most dramatic development online in recent years has been the meteoric rise of social networking, with the use of such sites among online adults increasing to 65% in 2011, from just 11% in 2005.
Even so, search and email dominate today's Internet: 92% of online adults use search engines to find information on the Web, and the same percentage (92%) use email.
Moreover, search and email have been the most popular online activities over the past nine years: In 2002, 85% of online adults used search, while 93% used email, compared with reading news online (68%) and buying online (61%).
Meanwhile, reading news online (76%) ranks as the third-most popular activity, overtaking online buying (71%), though that activity appears to be rebounding after a 2010 low.
Below, additional findings from Pew's 2011 report on popular online activities, issued by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project and Project for Excellence in Journalism.
Daily Email and Search Use
Email and search have become more habitual: 59% of online adults use search daily and 61% use email every day. In 2002, 49% of online adults used email each day, while just 29% used a search engine daily.
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Who Uses Search Most?
Daily use of search engines is most popular among the following demographics:
- Men: 61% of online males use search daily.
- Whites: 60% of online whites use search daily, compared with 57% of African Americans and 48% of Hispanics.
- Younger adults: 66% of online adults age 18-29 search daily, compared with 64% of those age 30-49, 52% of those age 50-64, and 37% of those age 65+.
- College graduates: 75% of online adults with a college degree search online daily, compared with 66% of those with some college education, 41% of high school grads, and 29% with some high school education.
About the survey: Findings are from the report "Search and Email Still Top the List of Most Popular Online Activities," authored by Kristen Purcell, Associate Director for Research, Pew Internet Project, issued by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project and Project for Excellence in Journalism, August 9, 2011, and accessed on August 12, 2011. Data are based on a survey of 2,277 adults, age 18 and older, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from April 26 to May 22, 2011.