European WWW User Profiles


Millions of Web users in Europe, but who are they?

This study analyzes the European dataset from GVU's 4th WWW User Survey (10/95-11/95). There was a total of about 23,000 responses to the 4th survey, just under 2,000 from Europe. For a breakdown of the number of responses by country please refer to GVU, where you can also find the analysis of Europe as a whole. Since Europeans are not all alike (ha!), I thought it would be useful to divide Europe into regions: UK/Ireland, Scandinavia, Germany/Austria/Swi tzerland, France/Belgium/Holland, Eastern Europe, and the Mediterranean. It would have been nice to analyze each country individually. However, even with these groupings, over 60 graphs were produced to illustrate the results. Please do not be offende d if you do not like the way I have grouped the countries.

Limitations of the study

The two limitations of the GVU surveys are self selection and non-probabilistic sampling. The GVU WWW User Survey pages elaborate on this. In short, people who voluntarily log onto GVU to take a survey automatically fall into one particular category of Web users -- thus, some contend, there is not a "true" sample. I am not a statistician, but I do not subscribe to this theory. I do think that offering the survey in English only is a real barrier to many Web users around the world who might want to par ticipate but whose English is limited. The GVU Survey Team is working on mirroring the surveys in other languages.

Summary of findings


There are far fewer women Web users in Europe than in the US. While women make up about 30 percent of the US Web community, the European region with the most women is UK/Ireland with only 15 percent. All the other European regions have between 8 and 9 percent women.

Marital status

Half of European Web users were single, 28 percent married. Marriage was more common in the Mediterranean countries (38 percent). Europeans were more likely to be living together (16 percent), a category that shows up as "other" in my analysis. Divorce e rates were high in Eastern Europe (8 percent) and Scandinavia (4 percent), and low in the UK/Ireland region (2 percent).

Dependent children

In general, Europeans had fewer dependents than the Web average (61 percent). The largest percentages of users with no children could be found in Eastern Europe (84 percent) and Germany/Austria/Switzerland (76 percent). The smallest percentage in this c ategory could be found in the Mediterranean region (63 percent). The area that had the largest percentage of users with two or more children was UK/Ireland (19 percent).


France/Belgium/Holland had the highest percentage of respondents with a college education (79 percent). It also had the largest percentage of doctoral users along with Eastern Europe (11 percent). While still very high, educational levels were lower in Eastern Europe and in Mediterranean countries. Educational levels in Scandinavia and in UK/Ireland were comparatively low.


Europeans were predominantly occupied in the fields of education (33 percent) and computers (33 percent). The main exception could be found in the Mediterranean countries, where 42 percent reported in categories other than education and computers, 20 per cent being managers. The largest percentage of "professionals" could be found in the Germany/Austria/Switzerland region at 19 percent. Education dominated in Scandinavia at 44 percent.


The average income in Europe was US$ 56,000. Web users in Eastern Europe had the lowest incomes of all the regions with 80 percent having incomes of less than $25K. Germany/Austria/Switzerland had the highest income levels, and the largest percentage of Web users with incomes of over $100K (19 percent). While the incomes in the France/Belgium/Holland area were comparatively high, with 54 percent making over $50,000, there was also a comparatively large group of users making less than $15K (24 percent) .

Access provider

Overall, one third of Europeans gained access via educational institutions, and one third gained access via local providers. Educational access dominated particularly in Eastern Europe (61 percent) and Scandinavia (47 percent). Local access dominated in the Mediterranean region (50 percent), while the largest percentage of commercial access (access via work) could be found in UK/Ireland (17 percent).

Internet experience

According to GVU's 4th survey, 60 percent of Internet users worldwide have been online less than one year. This means Internet experience in Europe was comparatively high. UK/Ireland had the largest percentage of Internet users with less than one year o f experience in Europe at 53 percent, the smallest percentage being in the Mediterranean countries (19 percent). Scandinavia had the largest percentage of Internet users with more than 7 years of experience (9 percent).

Willing to pay for access to WWW sites

Europeans tend to be more concerned about the quality of the information they have to pay for (7 percent vs 3 in the US). Most quality concious are the Scandinavians with 9 percent. The strongest resistance paying could be found in Eastern Europe, wher e 48 percent answered the question "no."

Computing for work

Europeans tended to spend more time computing at work than Americans. Particularly in Germany/Austria/Switzerland, where a remarkable 49 percent spent more than 30 hours per week on their computers at work, and only 18 percent spent less than 10 hours. Scandinavians spent comparatively few hours computing at work, with 30 percent spending less than 10 hours per week.

Computing for fun/play

Europeans spent less time computing for fun than Americans. The lowest level of computing for fun could be found in Germany/Austria/Switzerland, with higher levels in Scandinavia and UK/Ireland.