Wired US population grows steadily

More than 168 million people now have Internet access, pushing the number of Netizens in the United States to 60 percent of the population, according to a January study from Net measurement service Nielsen/NetRatings.

The research accounts for the overlap of Web surfers who have access to the Internet from both work and home. Most of us are surfing from home: Internet access from home accounts for 58 per cent of the access, or 162 million people.

The latest numbers reflect a steady growth in Americans gaining online access, researchers say. The totals have increased eight percent since October 2000, when 155 million people had access.

But those numbers don’t reflect who actually surfed. In fact, we went online in greater numbers in December – perhaps doing holiday shopping. The study finds 108 million people went online in December, while 106 million were online in January.

“The Web is now an integral part of the average person’s daily life,” says Allen Weiner, vice-president of analytical services for NetRatings. “People are conducting a wide range of their day-to-day activities online.”

Search engines and news sites are among the most frequently visited, the researchers find. They also name the most popular destinations grouped by ownership; the many sites operated by the combined AOL Time Warner lead with the largest unique audience. Other leaders are Microsoft, which operates a variety of sites including Hotmail, and Disney properties.

The researchers also find that the people surveyed go online almost daily, and the amount of time they spend online is growing. The average for both home and work surfers in December was 14 hours, 51 minutes for the month; in January, it hit 15 hours, three minutes.

The Nielsen/NetRatings service is provided through a partnership between Nielsen Media Research, ACNielsen eRatings.com, and NetRatings. They collect real-time information from more than 70,000 panel members in the United States. The U.S. panel sample consists of 62,000 at-home users and 8000 at-work users.