A report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project reveals Web 2.0 usage is limited to an elite group while half of Americans find technology annoying to some degree.
The report dubbed "A Typology of Information and Communication Technology Users (PDF, Techmeme discussion)" reveals that 31 percent of Americans are "Elite Tech Users." The report divides these elites into omnivores (8 percent), who have the most gadgets and "voraciously" participate in Web 2.0-ish activities; connectors (7 percent), who are happy with information and communications services; lackluster veterans (8 percent), who are down on cell phones and high on the Internet; and productivity enhancers (8 percent), who think IT matters a lot.
Full disclosure: I'm a cross between an omnivore and a lackluster veteran. I'm just not a big fan of cell phones--so don't call/message/Twitter me I'll call you. In fact, more often than not my cell is turned off.
Here's the breakdown of the report categories:
Now the big question here is whether the omnivore ranks are actually going to grow. Growing the omnivore ranks is critical to the early success of services like Twitter and a host of other Web 2.0 applications. There are two outcomes: Web 2.0 apps become so easy they bring everyone into the omnivore camp--or remain limited to a small crowd.
I'm not that optimistic. Chances are pretty good that connectors, lackluster veterans and productivity enhancers know all about what the omnivores are doing and aren't interested. Are middle-of-the-roaders suddenly going to make the leap? Probably not. A full 49 percent of America has "few technology assets." This crowd doesn't Twitter, text message or finds technology annoying. (This could be viewed as good or bad. Good: These people may actually know how to converse face to face. Bad: They are on the short end of the digital divide.)
So why the relative pessimism about Web 2.0? Too often technology interferes with life instead of making it easier. Do you Twitter or play with your kid? Do you pick up a half of rugby or post a blog? Meanwhile, most folks aren't tethered to the Web for their job. In other words, there are only so many hours in the day.
Pew's chart on digital activities is telling. Pew noted that "most online users don't do any of the digital activities listed."
And then there's the attitude issue. The blogging crowd lives in a Web 2.0 echo chamber. The real-world view is decidedly less optimistic. Pew says 42 percent are at least somewhat annoyed by intrusions by electronic devices.
Until that pendulum swings more positive Web 2.0's upside may be capped on the consumer and enterprise fronts.