The web turns 25

BY Bridget Shirvell  February 27, 2014 at 9:44 AM EDT
On this NeXT computer, British scientist Tim Berners-Lee devised the basic principles of the World Wide Web, while working at CERN in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

On this NeXT computer, British scientist Tim Berners-Lee devised the basic principles of the World Wide Web, while working at CERN in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The World Wide Web is growing up. It turns 25 on March 12 — if you use the date Sir Tim Berners-Lee wrote a paper proposing the system as the birthday of the Web.

The Web is now woven in our everyday lives. We use it for everything, from looking up directions to chatting with friends and family thousands of miles of away. Can you even remember the last time you went a day without the Web?

Back in 1995, only 14 percent of American adults used the internet. Today it’s 87 percent, according to the Pew Research Center, and among young adults aged 18 to 29 it’s 97 percent.

Pew Research Center’s Internet Project in partnership with Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Project is marking the internet’s birthday this year with a series of reports on internet penetration, privacy, cyber security, the “internet of things” and net neutrality.

The first report, released this morning, uses Pew’s extensive research on technology in American life, which dates back to 1990 when Pew first asked a question about computer use in a national survey. The report also includes telephone interviews conducted in January of 2014 to look at internet penetration and how Americans feel about the internet. Those interviews surveyed 1,006 adults living in the continental United States, including 502 with landline phones and 504 cell phones, 288 of which didn’t have a landline phone.

Those telephone interviews show that Americans generally feel the internet has made a positive impact on their lives and personal relationships.

“After they tote up all the positives and negatives of life in the digital age, the vast majority of users believe these technologies have made things better for them and for society,” Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center Internet Project said. “They see problems, to be sure, but most have now brought technology so deeply into the rhythms of their lives that they say it would be very hard to give up.”

How hard would it be to give up these technologiesHere are some of the key findings of the survey:

The internet is ingrained into American life

  • 71 percent of adults in the U.S. say they use the internet on a typical day.

The internet is good

  • 90 percent of internet users say the internet has been a good thing for them personally, while 6 percent say it has been a bad thing and 3 percent volunteer that it has been some of both.
  • 76 percent of users say the internet has been a good thing for society, while 15 percent say it has been a bad thing and 8 percent say it has been equally good and bad.

Internet Kindness

The internet is essential

  • 53 percent of internet users say the internet would be, at minimum, “very hard” to give up. That’s more than those who say cell phones, televisions and landlines would be “very hard” to give up.
  • 39 percent of internet users feel they absolutely need to have internet access.
  • 30 percent of internet users said it would be hard to give up access because they simply enjoy being online.

The internet has strengthened relationships

  • 67 percent of internet users say their online communication with family and friends has generally strengthened those relationships, while 18 percent say it generally weakens those relationships.
  • 76 percent of internet users said that people they witnessed or encountered online were mostly kind, while 13 percent of people said were mostly unkind.
  • 56 of internet users say they have seen an online group come together to help a person or a community solve a problem, while 25 percent say they left an online group because the interaction became too heated or members were unpleasant to one another.

“Looking back at the origins of the Web, we can see patterns of use and non-use that persist today,”  Susannah Fox, co-author of the Pew Research Center report said. “A person’s level of education is still a primary factor in predicting whether she uses technology or not. And the younger someone is, the more likely it is that she uses technology. One constant is that users, whenever they start, say that digital communications tools strengthen their relationships.”

Do you feel the same way about the internet?