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Saturday, July 23, 2005

Web Users : Query Usage Patterns

A decade after browsers came into popular use, the Internet has reached into–and, in some cases, reshaped–just about every important realm of modern life. It has changed the way we inform ourselves, amuse ourselves, care for ourselves, educate ourselves, work, shop, bank, pray and stay in touch, says the recently concluded Pew Internet Report. On a typical day at the end of 2004, some 70 million American adults logged onto the Internet to use email, get news, access government information, check out health and medical information, participate in auctions, book travel reservations, research their genealogy, gamble, seek out romantic partners, and engage in countless other activities. That represents a 37 percent increase from the 51 million Americans who were online on an average day in 2000 when the Pew Internet & American Life Project began its study of online life. Still, the Internet has also enabled new kinds of activities that no one ever dreamed of doing before–certainly not in the way people are doing them nowForbes writes, after a decade of evolution, investment and growth, the Internet is still primarily used to find pictures of naked women and to learn how to cheat in videogames. The queries that you see the most do represent people looking for porn. WordTracker looks at search terms entered on search engines including Metacrawler and Dogpile confirms the trend. WordTracker removes explicitly sexual adult key phrases from its reports. But the team — a division of Rivergold Associates – says that if it left them in, they'd account for a full quarter of all search engine queries.

The top queries indicate that even when people aren't wasting time, they're still being stupid. "The only other things you tend to see are navigational queries, people searching for Hotmail or Google," says Danny Sullivan. Just look at WordTracker's rankings, and there it is; "Google," the tenth most-popular search term. There are people who simply do not understand the difference between a search box and a navigational bar." That's probably true, as evidenced by a study released this week, which showed the majority of Internet users are not familiar with Web terminology.

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