Is Web 2.0's upside capped?

Is Web 2.0's upside capped?

Summary: 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.

TOPICS: Browser

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. 

Topic: Browser

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  • Unexpected responses to these 3 questions:

    "When I get a new electronic device, I usually need someone else to set it up or show me how to use it.
    Not at all: 39%."

    [At least half must be implying the item is still in the box.]

    "It is stressful to own and manage all of the different electronic devices I have.
    Not at all: 53%."

    I often feel annoyed by having to respond to intrusions from my electronic devices.
    Not at all: 43%.

    Does every survey obtain a number of responses from teenagers with improbably large incomes, all of it spent on the product being polled? (Or similar outliers.)

    These results do not seem consistent with the views of the population, as expressed publicly.
    Anton Philidor
    • Agreed

      There does seem to be a disconnect. The demographics and responses in the survey begin on page 45 in the PDF here.

      The appendix beginning on Pg 50 is also interesting. Overall though it doesn't appear that Pew surveyed a bunch of teens. 20 percent of the 4001 surveyed were 18 to 29 year olds. That chart is on page 62 in the PDF.
      Larry Dignan
  • Is there a way to bridge the divide?

    See my small (recent) cartoon:

    And an older one:

    • Nope

      Just see how many need to be trained up on the cash register in your local 7-11 (or any othe high-turnover retail job).
      Some people still have yet to use a computer at all, much less owm one.
  • it's the money and geewizz factors

    I guess there are legions of folks that lack the disposable income to have a pc, or pda, or cell phone. Plus the "Geewizz" facctor in new tech leaves many folks cold. they just want reliable basic tech that just works!


    • It's not necessarily a LACK of income per se . . .

      It's just that most people (Like myself) don't have the money needed, nor the desire to buy the latest and greatest every 18 months or so. I have a 18 month old laptop that is woefully underpowered by today's standard, but runs just fine. My desktop is approaching 6 years old, and still runs great, but will need major surgery (shades of an Apple Ad . . .) to be able to run Vista in any configuration other than Basic. Since I don't feel like spending that kind of cash on the PC, I'll probably switch to Linux when the time comes for both systems.

      And as for Web 2.0, some of us have this thing we're involved in called "Real Life" (tm). Y'know, the thing where we go to our kids band concerts and have picnics, and actually go places where you don't need a PC or PDA in order to have fun. . .
  • The Questions They Ask

    A question gets the answer it deserves. And usually, you just don't need to ask.
    Who doesn't use a phone? Or own a TV? A fridge, microwave, electric kettle?
    Successful technology is mostly non-elective. The must-haves become self-evident with just a few cranks holding out against them.
    It's the marginal stuff like iPods (not easy to use because they rely on compound technology), George Foreman grills (no over-riding utility), when they were around, typewriters (difficult to use, expensive and pens and writing paper are such easy, cheap technologies) which fails.
    Web 2.0 will dominate because it will be too expensive - and pointless - to offer "old" web alongside it. A bit like this survey I suppose; pointless.
  • Push Connected Active Realtime Buzzword Compatility Upside Expanding!

    "Web 2.0" is just the latest buzzword. You can define it any way you want.

    Here's what I'm seeing from this report, assuming the sample is typical of the US population:

    85% of the population is online.
    Half the population have a positive attitude about it.
    Less than a third of the population are decidedly unhappy.

    It's not so long ago that these kinds of numbers would be science fiction. And y'all are talking doom and gloom?
  • Poor information design

    That is the problem. And added features just makes poor information design even more annoying or unusable.

    With good information design, that might change things significantly in favor of "Web 2.0" being usable.

    Remember blinking text? (shudder)

    Read the Polar Bear book before creating a web site. Seriously.

    If people who don't regularly use the internet can't quickly figure out how to find and use what they want, they simply won't.

    If conventions are changed in ways that make use unrecognizable, veterans will give it a pass. Life is too short, once you are out of your teens and twenties, to spend hours trying to figure out a new web site, virtual environment or program. Things should generally work according to established conventions, and where there are new bells and whistles they need to obviously communicate what they do and how to use them, in their very appearance and design.
  • Who cares?

    I don't seen any reason why more than 30% of the population should be blogging and "twittering" and podcasting and "social bookmarking" and whatnot. Some people enjoy it, some don't. Some people have diaries and journals, some don't. I use the internet quite often and, aside from gathering information from Wikipedia, I never touch web 2.0. No RSS subscriptions, no podcasts, nothing. Plus, the name is annoying.
  • 8% need to get a real life.

    No, seriously.
  • WEB 2.0

    A very large part of the USA does not have access to the old internet they wouldent know about a new one. The ISPs are not interested in rural or small population areas,lets face it if money is required some areas and people are out of the picture.
  • I'm with you

    I have a pretty full life, but don't need all this other stuff. I work in a computer lab for my regular job, designing interactive courseware for the Navy, and attend college online. I have a cell phone, a Mac and two pc's, but I don't get into all of that IM, chat, and blog stuff, or podcasting. I prefer to leave my work at work, and enjoy a somewhat boring and sedate life at home, turning wrenches and mowing the lawn.
  • It's not about growing the 8%, it is about shrinking the 49%

    I don't think there is ever going to be a huge percentage of omnivores. In fact, I bet that number is inflated now due to all of the Web 2.0 hype.

    What *will* happen is that the middle of the road users will expand and cause the number of people with "few tech assets" to shrink. I believe the study said that the average age of the people with "few tech assets" was 64.

    As the 20- and 30-somethings who are using the web daily now get older, we will see that many more of them will be participating online than people in their 50s and 60s are today. So we'll have more people in the middle and fewer on the extremes.

    And even if the numbers stay stagnant, you're looking at 15% of the US population (45 million people) who are connectors or omnivores. That's not an insignificant number.