Net users bypass browser

Most people accessing the Internet do so via media players and instant-messaging applications, according to new figures

The Web may have popularised the Internet, but most users now connect to the Net using non-browser applications, according to figures released this week.

Media players and instant-messaging applications are now by far the most popular Internet applications, dwarfing the Web browser, according to December figures from Nielsen//NetRatings released on Tuesday. Seventy-six percent of active Internet users access the Net using a non-browser application.

The Internet is increasingly working its way into applications outside the browser, blurring the lines between the desktop and the online world, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. "With 76 percent of Web surfers using Internet applications, functionality has grown beyond the browser to become a fundamental piece of the overall desktop," said Nielsen//NetRatings analyst Abha Bhagat, in a statement.

The most popular application in December was Windows Media Player, reaching 34 percent of Internet users; AOL Instant Messenger, reaching 20.27 percent; RealNetworks' players, reaching 19.76 percent; MSN Messenger, reaching 19.31 percent; and Yahoo Messenger, reaching 12.26 percent.

The Web browser Mosaic, introduced a decade ago, made the Internet more accessible to non-technical users by adding a graphical user interface, but industry observers say the spread of Internet applications is taking the IT industry into a post-Web world. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who was recently knighted for his invention of the Web, has now moved on to what he calls "the semantic Web".