GVU's Ninth WWW User

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GVU's 9th WWW User Survey
Technology Demographics Summary

Connection Speed

Given that speed remains the most cited problem users experience with the Web, it is not surprising that people's connection speed to the Internet has steadily increased. In April 1995, close to 50% of the users were operating 14.4 Kb/sec modems or slower. Three years later, only 4% of the users connect with 14.4 kb/sec modems or slower - a reduction of 92%. Changes in the 1 Mb/sec or faster connections initially dropped from 23% to 15% between April 1995 and April 1997 due to the decrease of academic and computer-professional users. In the past year, we note a slight resurgence (2%) towards this class of connections, possibly fueled by increased bandwidth demands from corporate users.

Still, the largest area of change was in modems. But is this change driven by existing users upgrading or by new users benefiting from faster modems being incorporated into purchased systems? Our analysis shows that upgrading is the dominant factor, with 47.9% of the users reporting having upgraded in the past year and an additional 37.6% planning to upgrade in the next year. Despite the large number of users who are on the upgrade cycle, a quarter of the users have not recently upgraded and have no plans to upgrade in the next year.

Upgrading of Connection Speed (9th Survey) Upgraded Last Year Did not Upgraded Last Year Total
Plan to Upgrade 19.7% 17.9% 37.6%
No Plans to Upgrade 28.2% 24.1% 52.3%
Total 47.9% 42.0% 89.9%

Comparisons of the upgrading plans of users in the 9th survey to those last Fall in the 8th survey show very similar results. The largest change was in the group of people who had not upgraded and stated no plans to upgrade, with 4% fewer people reporting this option in the 9th survey. This implies a slight increase in the propensity of people to upgrade, which was reflected in nearly 3% more users upgrading in the past year in the 9th survey.

Differences between 9th and 8th survey in Upgrading Upgraded Last Year Did not Upgraded Last Year Total
Plan to Upgrade -0.22% 1.44% 1.21%
No Plans to Upgrade 2.80% -4.02% -1.21%
Total 2.58% -2.58% 0.00%

Inspection of the changes in modem usage across surveys reveals the quick adoption of 28.8 Kb/sec in late 1996 and early 1997, followed by the adoption of 33.3 Kb/sec in 1997, and 56.6 Kb/sec modems in early 1998. All these data suggest that users will quickly adopt the fastest modems they can acquire.

Browser Selection

As initially reported in the last survey, the impact of browser bundling especially at the Internet Service Provider (ISP) level has significantly changed browser market share. Spring marked the official releases of 4.0 browsers by both Microsoft and Netscape, both with significant improvements and with new features. The impact of the 4.0 releases is clear: more users (9 percentage points) switched browsers and browser vendors as a result, with Microsoft gaining market share and Netscape losing market share. An interesting point is that most of the share was gained from users switching from browsers other than Netscape and occurred primarily with users who have been on the Internet under three years. Old-time Internet users tend to be quite loyal to the Netscape browser.

Frequency of Switching Browser Vendors 8th Survey
October 1997
9th Survey
April 1998
Never 71.15% 62.20% -9.05%
One time 15.32% 22.90% 7.58%
Twice 6.07% 8.30% 2.23%
Three - five times 1.96% 2.70% 0.74%

The overall market share of 61% by Netscape versus 31% by Microsoft is lower than other reports, a finding we believe is due to the bias in our sample towards more experienced users and a probable bias of other surveys to over-sample new users. The bias becomes apparent when one looks at the market share of users on the Internet less than one year where the vendors are almost equal in terms of market share (51.45% Netscape versus 47.10% Microsoft). Compare this to the market share amongst the users that have been on the Internet for over three years (64% Netscape versus 26% Microsoft) and the earlier point about old time users being loyal becomes clearer. As with the last survey, we predict that barring any regulatory changes, Microsoft will continue to gain market share driven by delivering bundled browsers to new users. We extend the prediction to include the increased market share of Microsoft as a result of seasoned users switching of browsers due to operating system upgrades and 5.0 browser releases.

Equipment Owned

Color, color, color! The majority of Web users (62.8%) in the 9th survey report owning a color printer. This signals a 16% point increase from the 8th survey and represents a huge success story for color printer manufactures in correctly creating and meeting market demands. Even more surprising is that all equipment categories showed increased ownership, from Personal Digital Assistants like the Palm Pilot© (2.5 percentage point increase) to fax machines (4 percentage point increase) to scanners (13 percentage point increase). Our preliminary analysis of the data has not revealed correlation or causation for this across the board increase.

Internet Technologies used in the Past Year

What will be the next killer Internet application? Clearly, email and the World Wide Web are the first and foremost killer applications for communication and information respectively, but what about the other technologies like Internet telephony, Internet fax and digital certificates? Though the tale is far from told, Java and/or JavaScript continue to be the most widely used Internet technology from our list of choices. Over 80% of the users have used Java and/or JavaScript, up nearly 15% points from last fall. Not far behind is audio, posting a 10% gain in usage in the past six months to 65% of all users. Although deeper analysis may reveal why, chat was the only technology that remained the same across surveys at 61%. Strong advances in usage for Internet telephony and Internet fax along with digital certificates are encouraging, but their low usage rate (all under 20%) indicate that these technologies are still a bit before their prime time.

Other Questions Asked but Not Presented in this Summary

Which browser do you expect to be using in 12 months?

Do you think you are using the most up-to-date version of your browser?

How did you obtain your browser?

Why did you choose this particular browser?

Which email package do you primarily use?

Why did you choose this particular email package?

How many times in the past year have you switched the vendor of your email package?

Please select the statement that best reflects the nature of your email accounts.

Which of the following email experiences have you had?

Which of the following technologies do you use to communicate with others on a routine basis?

What type of monitor is in front of you?

What is the screen diameter/diagonal of the monitor in front of you?

What resolution is the monitor in front of you currently set to?

Which online services do you currently subscribe to?

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Georgia Tech Research Corporation
Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0415
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GVU's WWW Surveying Team
GVU Center, College of Computing
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, GA 30332-0280