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Friday, 5 July, 2002, 12:02 GMT 13:02 UK
Net users seek first and surf later
BBC search engine
Search is often the first stop for surfers
Finding information via net search engines is rapidly becoming the most popular activity for people going online.

Search engines are becoming hugely important to the online and offline lives of many net users, according to a survey released this week.

Figures collected by the Pew Internet Project show that e-mail checking is the only thing net users do more regularly than type terms into a search engine.

The research reveals that search engines are slowly maturing and doing a much better job of pointing people towards useful web pages.

Spiritual help

More than 80% of all US net users have consulted a search engine, and 29% of people turn to search engines every day to find information online, according to figures from the Pew Internet project survey.

The only thing that is more popular is e-mail checking, which 52% of people do on a daily basis.

The longer people are online, the more often they turn to search engines such as Google, Alta Vista and Lycos, reports the survey. Almost 40% of those who have been online for three years or more consult search engines every day.

The Pew report reveals that many of the searches help people resolve problems in the real world, such as ways to cope with severe illness, which official agency to turn to or which religion can best provide spiritual succour.

Where's my name?

Other search queries are more frivolous.

Pew reports that 25% of those it questioned said they had used a search engine to find out how often their own name turns up online.

Men are more likely, 30%, to look for themselves online than women, 24%.

The survey shows that people are learning to trust the results returned by search engines instead of scouring the web themselves for information. Searching is starting to replace surfing.

Google is by far the most popular general search engine based on the average number of minutes people spend using it per month.

The MSN search engine is the most popular overall, largely because anyone typing a keyword into the address box on Internet Explorer gets taken to the MSN search page.

See also:

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