The Changing Face of the Internet

Since the Internet became really popular in the Mid-90's, it's been defended and demonized.  But it looks like it's here to stay.  Young white, and tech-savvy...the early Internet had a definite user profile.  But the web is getting easier to use, and the online popularion is stanring to look more like shoppers at Wal-Mart. Espcaially when it comes to gender.  One study shows the number of women logging on exceeded the number of men for the first time, almost a year ago.
      Studies are giving us a better idea of how the internet is being used.  For instance, in affluent neighborhoods, people consider the internet a tool of convenience, whereas in middle-class families, it's thought of as a form of entertainment.  And while we're at it, let's de-bunk another myth about the internet.  The early perceptions were that the internet would isolate us socially.  But studies are showing it's actually developing healthier relationships.
     And over-all numbers are impressive, too.  Last January, Nielsen/NetRatings estimated about 123-million users in the US, this January, that number had risen to 163-million users.  Analysts say that's because of the falling cost of PC's and internet access.  But the so-called "Digital Divide" that had everyone so worried between the haves and have-nots is now refocused on the issue of broadband connectivity, or the size of the data pipeline.  Last year, just 6.8% of Americans had a high-speed connection at home.....and it hasn't come up much by early this year, just 13%.  That means only a relatively few Americans can make good on the best promises of the internet:  streaming video, audio, and fast downloads.
       Wanna know who's the most spoiled when it comes to broadband?  It's college students.  Most universities have high-speed data access. So much so, that many consider it to be a good selling point to recruit new students.
     But most students return to dial-up conenctions back at home with mom 'n' dad.  Just like Cable TV, fast internet connections come to rural parts of the country last.
     By the way, the great economic promise of the internet still escapes most web-sites, but not for lack of trying.  Advertisers and marketers still believe the internet will eventually be the best way to target specific groups.


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