According to a new report from The Pew Internet & American Life Project, daily use of search engines is growing and starting to approach email usage levels. New research conducted by telephone among 2,251 US adults, age 18 and older, found that 49 percent of internet users use a search engine on a typical day, compared with 60 percent for email.
In 2002, Pew’s data showed that about 30 percent of people online used search daily.
Here are some other interesting data from the survey about the profile of daily search users (as opposed to all search users):
College graduate + — 66% Some college — 49% High school graduate or less — 32% Income
$75,000 + — 62% $50,000 – 74,999 — 56% $30,000 – 49,999 — 34% <$30,000 -- 36%
Broadband at home — 58% Dial-up at home — 26%
18 – 29 years — 55% 30 – 49 years — 54% 50 – 64 years — 40% 65 years and older — 27%
Men — 53% Women — 45%
The report author Deborah Fallows speculates on what caused the growth of daily search usage:
One likely reason is that users can now expect to find a high-performing, site-specific search engine on just about every content-rich website that is worth its salt.
Another reason may be related to the fact that fully 55% of American homes have a high-speed internet connection. Of all the demographic variables we analyzed, the presence of a home broadband connection had the strongest relationship with a user’s propensity to use a search engine on a typical day.
Finally, it may be that general search engine sites have become so useful and well tuned that people turn to them for an increasingly broad range of questions.
I would speculate that there’s so much information out there that no other organizational tool can manage the volumes of content that people online “consume.” Search has become an essential utility for almost all internet users.