As Web's 25th anniversary approaches, 87% of U.S. is online

Pew reports that 53% of Americans say Internet would be 'very hard' to give up

As the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web approaches, 87% of U.S. adults use the Internet, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

That's a significant change compared to the 42% of U.S. adults who had never heard of the Internet in 1995 -- six years after Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist, introduced the idea of the World Wide Web.

March 12 marks 25 years since Berners-Lee made a proposal for an information system that turned into the Web.

There may be an overall perception that the Internet has led to users' feeling isolated or depressed and that it's a den for stalkers and porn. The Pew study, though, shows that 90% of those surveyed say the Internet has been good for them, and 76% say it has been good for society.

However, while 67% said the Internet strengthened communications with their friends and family, 18% said it hurt those relationships.

The Pew Research Center interviewed more than 1,000 U.S. adults last month for the survey.

"The rise of the Web -- and more broadly, the Internet -- has been one of the most remarkable stories of technology adoption in history," said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center Internet Project. "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. 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."

According to Pew research, 20 to 25 years ago, anyone who wanted to use the Internet needed to have access to a computer. In 1995, 42% of U.S. adults said they used a computer at their workplace, at school or at home -- even if only occasionally.

Now, eight in 10 U.S. adults said they use a laptop or desktop computer somewhere in their lives.

And 53% of Internet users today said in the Pew survey that the Internet would be, at a minimum, very hard to give up, compared with 38% in 2006.

Similarly, 49% of cell phone owners said their phones would be very hard to give up, andincrease from 43% in 2006.

Fewer people feel the same way about their televisions, however. According to Pew, 35% of U.S. adults said their TVs would be very hard to give up, down from 44% who had the same view in 2006.

Americans, though, are much more attached to the Internet and their digital devices. Pew noted that 39% said they "absolutely need" to have Internet access. Among those who said it would be difficult to give up net access, 61% said being online is essential for their jobs or other aspects of their lives, and 30% said they want the Internet because they simply enjoy being online.

This article, As Web's 25th anniversary approaches, 87% of U.S. online, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

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