GVU Center's WWW User Survey Home Page
Office of Communications
Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0181
404-894-7214 (FAX)

NEWS Contact: Gwendolyn Glenn, Communications
Colleen Kehoe, GVU


ATLANTA, December 12, 1997--Results from the latest World Wide Web study conducted by researchers at Georgia Tech show a continued, significant increase in the number of female users on the Internet. In the last six months, the number of women users has jumped from 33 percent to 38.4 percent of all users. In 1994, when Tech researchers began conducting the web surveys, women represented a mere 5 percent of all users on the Internet.

"Last month, there were more than 36 million people on the Internet in the U.S. With 38.4 percent of those users being female, we know there are a great number of women web consumers out there," said Colleen Kehoe, a Ph.D. student at Georgia Tech and a lead research scientist for Tech's Graphics, Visualization and Usability Center's World Wide Web Study.

According to Kehoe, a large amount of the increase in female Internet users is among college-aged women. Of the 10,000 participants in the survey, there were more females respondents in the 16-20 year-old age range (11%) than males (8%).

"A lot of the female use is being driven by the fact that more educational settings are being wired-- high schools and especially colleges," Kehoe said.

This latest survey marks the first time the World Wide Web study has analyzed participant responses in terms of how long the users have been on the Internet. The results point to significant differences in the profiles of Internet veterans and novices. In the past, the typical web user was a male 20-30 years old, employed in the computer field and who rarely used the computer for fun purposes. The new Internet consumers are more gender balanced, don't use the Internet for work purposes and became a user due to interest and not work-related duties.

Kehoe added, "Most old users started on the system at work or school then got a home computer. The new group started using the Internet for personal reasons at home first and don't use it at work. Those that access the Internet from home only, represent a large category that has seen significant growth."

Another difference between the new and old web users according to the Tech study is that new users are more cautious and concerned about their information being tracked for unknown purposes by web site server and page owners.

"The new users don't want anything recorded without their knowledge and consent. This may be because they are influenced by media fraud stories about credit card numbers being stolen on the net. It's not clear if the long-time users are less cautious because they have their guard down or because they are more knowledgeable about the technical aspects of the Internet," Kehoe said.

A common factor between these two groups, and across the board is that all users would like to see statements posted on the various web sites in terms of how the information that is being recorded will be used. Experts say this is not a difficult thing for site owners and servers to provide and many have already taken this step to meet consumer concerns.

New users' caution concerning the Internet probably explains why there is a big gap between the number of new and old web users who shop on the Internet. The Tech World Wide Web study shows that 84 percent of the people who have been on the system for four or more years have bought items through the Internet as opposed to 54 percent of novices. According to the study, the number one reason which new users give for not shopping on the Internet is security--they don't think their credit cards will be secure. This is less of a problem for experts whose number one reason for not using the Internet to shop is that they can't judge the quality of the product.

"Catalogues tackled this problem by producing great photos with descriptions of their products years ago. They also let consumers return unwanted items at no cost. Creators of web sites can take some lessons from this and produce better photos and details on products being offered. They (websites) also don't give the impression that the products can be returned and at no cost to the buyer," Kehoe said.

In addition, when ordering through the Internet, 50 percent of respondents say slowness of the system is why they often give up and leave a particular site. Slowness is also the number one technical concern of all users. According to Kehoe, "68 percent of long time users leave a site due to slowness, as opposed to 38 percent of new users. This is not surprising because the experts have a lot less patience than novices in general."

Georgia Tech's World Wide Web Study is produced twice a year by the Graphics, Visualization and Usability Center, which is housed in Tech's College of Computing. Though lacking the validity of a true scientifically-selected random survey, the GVU survey of Web users has provided an interesting and widely-respected snapshot of who's using the Internet. The World Wide Web Survey Council of corporate donors provided partial funding for the project.

For additional information on the survey, visit the study's website, free of charge, at http://www.gvu.gatech.edu/user_surveys/survey-1997-10/ For additional information on the World Wide Web Survey Council, contact Molly Croft at 404-894-8383, or Molly.Croft@cc.gatech.edu

NOTE: The term Internet users in the above information refers to the 10,000 respondents who participated in the GVU World Wide Web Survey.