Survey: Net surfing a dying sport

When it comes to Internet navigation Internet users are apparently done with surfing. According to a new survey, a majority of users now go directly where they want to go by typing in URLs and using bookmarks, rather than hopping from Web link to Web link.

“Meandering is decreasing. This is a sign that the market is maturing,” said Geoff Johnston, vice-president of product management for the StatMarket division of WebSideStory Inc. which released the report Thursday.

According to StatMarket, over 64 per cent of Net users surveyed arrive at sites through direct navigation, compared to 53 per cent a year ago. Although the uptick in direct navigation shows that users increasingly know where they want to go, that does not mean that search engine use is down, however.

In fact, Johnston said that the per cent of users arriving at a site via a search engine has increased to 13 per cent from eight per cent last year.

While search engine referrals are growing, it’s link-to-link navigation that is decreasing, Johnston said.

“People are treating the Web like a library and going to the card catalogue rather than searching through all the books,” he added.

While the Internet’s cornucopia of information may have left Net users starry-eyed in the early days, users are now determined to get down to business rather than browse. This means that more than ever Web site owners will have to attract traffic by providing valuable content because users cannot be tricked into visiting their sites, Johnston said.

Not only is search engine use growing, people are getting better at using them, said Matthew Berk, a senior analyst at Jupiter Research.

In fact, many Net users initially find sites through search engines and then bookmark them, or type in the URLs (uniform resource locators), which may account for the increase in direct navigation, Berk said.

Johnston agreed, comparing the Internet to TV. “After a while you get tired of flipping through the channels and just turn to the programs you like,” he said.

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