GVU's 7th WWW Survey Results
GVU's WWW User Survey

GVU's 7th WWW User Survey

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This is the main document for the Graphic, Visualization, & Usability Center's (GVU) 7th WWW User Survey. GVU runs the Surveys as public service and as such, all results are available online (subject to certain terms and conditions). The 7th Survey was run from April 10, 1997 through May, 1997 and was endorsed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) (which exists to develop common standards for the evolution of the Web) and INRIA (the acting European host for the W3C in collaboration with CERN, where the Web originated). The $250 US cash prize winners are Michael D. from Pennsylvania, Roland M. from Connecticut, and Sam H. from California. Congratulations!

Over 87,000 unique responses were collected from 19,970 unique respondents, making it the second largest of GVU's Surveys to date. Questions were asked on the following areas:

Basic Sections: Consumer Sections:
  • General Demographics
  • Web and Internet Usage
  • Electronic Privacy, Spamming, etc.
  • Politics
  • Security of Transactions
  • Information Gathering Behavior
  • Purchasing Behavior
  • Opinions of Vendors
  • Internet Banking (New!)
Special Sections:
  • Webmastering
  • HTML Authoring, Java, etc.
  • Web/Internet Service Providers

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

GVU's Seventh WWW User Survey marks the start of the fourth year of our research into the users of the World Wide Web and Internet. The First Survey was conducted during January of 1994. CGI scripting and HTML forms were just implemented in various browsers (the UNIX version of XMosaic was one of the only stable versions). Around 1,250 Web servers were online. Ninety-five percent of the user population was male.

Since then, the WWW user population and the Web have undergone dramatic, if not mind-blowing changes. The limited form of interactivity afforded by CGI scripting has been superceded by Java and various flavors of push technology. Today, there are over 1,000,000 Web servers and only two thirds of the users are male.

As we first started to note in the Sixth Survey conducted six months ago, the characteristics and behaviors of WWW users have stabilized considerably. Core demographic areas that used to undergo 10, 15, and even 25 percentage points differences in a six month period now typically see point differences under 5%. This should make sense, as the number of WWW and Internet users now stands at 30 million in the US alone (Source: FIND/SVP 1997). Dramatic shifts in the core demographics of online users would statistically require not only the inflow of radically different people, but also several million of them.

The stabilizing of user characteristics is comforting. No longer do we need to make decisions based upon uncertain and often times wild predictions of what may become. Today, we make assumptions about the WWW and Internet population in six month with increased confidence and certainly. Colleen and I did just this six months ago, and the results from the Seventh Survey confirm our suspicion-- many of the Seventh Survey results are identical to the results of the Sixth Survey.

This is not to say that there are not any interesting findings from the Seventh Survey. In keeping with our previous interest in understanding how the Web impacts larger social issues, we asked several new questions this time that deal with the cultural and language barriers, virtual banking, and a current hot topic--electronic privacy.

GVU's Seventh WWW User Survey, which was conducted April 10 through May 10 1997, received over 87,000 responses from 19,970 respondents. If we assume the current WWW user population to be around 30 million, then one out of every 1,500 users responded to the Seventh Survey. This deep penetration in the user population coupled with our latest efforts to employ random processes in gaining respondents (see the Methodology Section below for more details) and comparison to the findings of random telephone surveys makes us confident that our results are more representative than ever. Our longitudinal analysis that incorporates data from the previous three years of Surveys are integrated into our analysis yielding some of the most complete coverage of the user population available. Just the same, presentation of all the results is an arduous task (please forgive any typos and spelling errors).

We've created close to 300 graphs (See: graphs and tables) of the results and added our interpretation to each question asked in the Survey. These interpretations are also available in a separate, non-graphical format ideal for printing and offline reading. (See: bulleted lists of the findings). The bulleted lists provide an easy way for users to scan the results non-graphically first, and then inspect the graphs for only those questions of interest. Needless to say, there are a lot of interesting results, from which the high level summary below points out the more interesting findings. Plus, PDF files of the entire set of HTML pages presented herein will also available very soon.

For all questions, analyses between the following groups were performed: European vs. US users, Female vs. Male users, and by Age (19-25, 26-50, 51+). Throughout the course of the surveys, we've experimented with different stratifications and found these to be the some of the most revealing.

We hope you enjoy the fruits of our efforts. Please bear in mind that while we strive to make the results as useful and easy to understand as possible, we are ultimately limited by constraints on our time and resources. Colleen and I both conduct GVU's WWW User Surveys in our spare time.

Thanks for your interest and participation in the Surveys. As the Internet and the WWW continue their explosive growth, we will continue to provide the community with data from GVU's WWW User Surveys. We look forward to your participation next time around starting October 10, 1997!

We remain,

Jim Pitkow &
Colleen Kehoe
GVU's WWW User Survey Team

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High Level Summary and Trend Analysis

Cultural and Societal Impact

What do users feel is the most important issue facing the Internet?

Keeping in line with the Sixth Survey, the largest category of respondents (33.58% Seventh vs. 35.9% Sixth) feel that censorship is the most important issue facing the Internet today. This is followed by privacy (26.17% Seventh vs. 26.2% Sixth) and navigation (13.14% Seventh vs. 14.1% Sixth). The issues that are the least cited as most important are cultural and language issues, each receiving under 2% of the responses. Among European respondents, navigation outranks privacy as the second most important issue. And among women, privacy outranks censorship as the most important issue. Although the top 3 concerns have the same relative ranking for each age group (censorship, privacy, navigation), younger people are far more concerned with censorship than older users.

What are the sexual preferences of users?

This is the first time we asked users to tell us about their sexual preference. Of those users who responded, 92.61% stated that they are heterosexual. This corresponds roughly to the proportions reported in US surveys (typically 10% non-heterosexual). Out of the other choices, 3.05% reported being bisexual, 4.33% gay males, 3.27% lesbian, and 0.33 transgender. (Note, the "gay male" and "lesbian" responses would each be selected by a single gender, whereas the other categories could be selected by both genders.) There were no major differences between European and US users. More females reported being bisexual than their male counterparts (4.29% female vs. 2.48% male).

Since getting on the Internet, users have become...

As with the Sixth Survey, almost half (45.06% Seventh vs. 46.1% Sixth) of the respondents felt more connected to people who share their interests since coming online. Only 2.48% report feeling less connected, although a quarter of the respondents (26.65%) state that they do not know. The other 25.81% report feeling equally connected since going online. This provides some evidence for the claim that the Internet is more than just an information resource, rather it is building new communities based on common interests.

European respondents feel more connected overall than their US counterparts (49.89% Europe vs. 44.53% US). Women are less likely to know what effect the Internet has had than men (31.00% females vs. 24.66% males). Somewhat surprising, the nature of the female response profile also applies to the 50+ yr. old age group. As compared to the younger age group, 34.01% of the 50+ aged respondents report not knowing the effect of the Internet vs. 25.35% for the 19-25 yr. old segment.

Who is the favorite late night talk show host?

Of those respondents that stated a late night talk show host preference, Letterman was chosen over Leno more than 2 to 1 (55.43% Letterman vs. 24.76% Leno). A large percentage of European users had a favorite host other than Letterman or Leno. This is not surprising, since both of these hosts are from the US. A higher percentage of women than men preferred Leno (28.23% female vs. 23.189% male). Younger users, though, tended to prefer Letterman, with older users preferring Leno. All of these trends are consistent with results from the Sixth Survey.

Why are users unwilling to pay for access to Web sites?

In past surveys, we have asked whether people would be willing to pay fees to access sites. Typically, over 2/3 of the respondents claimed that they would not pay fees. In order to help figure out why, we repositioned this question to get at the reasons people would not pay to access Web sites. Almost half of the respondents cited being able to access the content on other sites as the main reason (44.06%). Next in line, people feel that they are already paying to access the Web via connectivity charges, so why should they pay to access specific sites (29.48%). Other popular reasons include costs too much to access (7.67%) and the content is of poor quality (7.32%). Only 1.07% state that they would pay regardless.

European users are more concerned than their US counterparts about the poor quality and that there is no easy mechanism to pay for content. Women cite that they are already paying to access the Web as their main reason (38.57% female vs. 25.34% male) followed by the existence of other sources (38.39% female vs. 46.65% male). These are the only notable differences between gender on this question. The same effect of citing already paying as the main reason as opposed to being able to find other sources also occurs with age, where older users feel they are already paying and younger users feel they can find other sources of the same information.

General Demographics

What's the average age?

The average age of users responding to the Seventh survey is 35.2 years old. The average age of users in our surveys has been slowly but steadily increasing since the Fourth survey at roughly one year per survey (Fourth: 32.7 yr., Fifth: 33.0 yr., Sixth : 34.9 yr.). The average age reported in this Survey is within the margin of error reported by FIND/SVP's 1997 American Internet User Survey of 36.5 yr. old. The consensus on average age between our data, collected through the pioneering method of using the Web to collect data, and FIND/SVP's data, collected through the traditional method of random telephone calls, helps increase our confidence that the core demographics in the Seventh Survey are representative.

What's the gender ratio & how has this changed over time?

The gender ratio is nearly identical to the past year's results (from the last two Surveys), with 31.30% of the respondents being female (31.4% female for the Fifth Survey). Please note that these percentages include all respondents. When only the US respondents are included, 33.41% of the respondents are female and 68.70% are male. This represents a slight increase since the Sixth Survey (32.42% female vs. 67.58% male). European users are still predominantly males (85.35%), which represents a slight increase in male usage for European users since the Sixth Survey six months ago (80.2% males for the Sixth Survey). There has been a slight increase in the percentage of women over age 50 in the past few Surveys (Seventh: 28.73%, Sixth: 27.1%, Fifth: 24.7%).

These numbers help confirm our analysis that the core demographics of Web users are stabilizing. This makes sense, as once the user population becomes large (over 30 million users in the US), dramatic shifts in proportions can only result from a large influx of significantly different users. This stability enables more confidence to be placed in estimations about the future demographics of Web users, as the rate of change is much slower than in years prior. We first noted this stabilizing trend in the Sixth Survey, thus the core demographics collected in the Seventh Survey (April 1997) are not dramatically different than those collected in the Fifth Survey (April 1996). While core demographics are stabilizing, usage behaviors certainly are still changing at a rapid pace.

The proportion of female users in the US has always been an interesting statistic to the popular media. Some research firms report the proportion of female users to be in the 40% range, while others (such as our Surveys and FIND/SVP's 1997 American Internet User Survey) report the proportion to be in the low to mid 30% range (GVU 7: 33.41% vs. FIND/SVP: 35.9%). Much of the difference between results can be explained by inspecting the definition of a user and possible age limitations placed upon the users. Our numbers, by the very nature of our sampling method, represent active Web users, whereas other numbers may more accurately reflect very casual users (i.e., they have used the Internet at least once in the past 6 months, etc.). Thus, neither number is necessarily wrong or better than the other in our opinion. We do recommend using a variety of research sources when making decisions based upon demographics.

What about location, marital status, & occupations?

The number of respondents from the US dropped 2 percentage points from the Sixth Survey (from 82.7% to 80.05%), which is very close to the level reported a year and a half ago in the Fourth Survey (80.6%). 85.46% of female respondents were from the US, but as with the Sixth Survey, all locations were more gender-balanced in this Survey compared to previous Surveys. Older respondents are more likely to be from the US than younger respondents (87.43% of those over 50 yr. old compared to 74.14% of those 19-25 yr. old).

The proportion of married respondents remained the same in the Seventh Survey (45.44%) compared to the Sixth Survey (45.7%), with 37.09% of respondents reporting being single. More Europeans than respondents from the US report being either single or living with another. Over 3/4 of those ages 19-26 are single (76.46%), while almost 3/4 of those age 50 and over are married (71.79%). Female users are almost twice as likely to be divorced than their male counterparts (8.75% female vs. 4.95% male).

Nearly a third of the users (30.24%) report being in a Computer related field, with 24.48% being in Education, 20.61% Professional, 14.73% Other and 9.95% Management. European users were more likely to be in Computers or Education than their US counterparts. Women are less likely as men to be in Computer related fields (20.28% Female vs. 34.77% Male), but are equally likely to be in Management or Professional positions. Almost half of those age 19-25 are in Education (48.74%) (which includes being a student). Those aged 26-50 (35.23%) are more likely to be in Computer fields than any other age group.


This was a refined questionnaire originally launched in the Fifth Survey. It investigates the political profile of Web users as well as their online political activities.

What is the political party affiliation of Web users?

This question was only asked of respondents in the US. As with the Fifth survey, respondents are fairly polarized between the two major parties. There was a slight increase in the percentage identifying themselves as Democrats in the Seventh Survey (40.74%) compared to the Sixth Survey (37.7%), but this percentage was almost identical to the Fifth Survey (41.8%). Republicans accounted for 34.10% of the respondents. Women are more likely to be associated with the Democratic Party (50.06% Democratic vs. 27.60% Republican). For users 50 years and older, the proportion of Republicans and Democrats is the same (41.31% Republican vs. 41.10% Democrat). Younger users are less likely to know their party affiliation.

What are their voting behaviors?

This question was only asked of those who said they were registered to vote. Of those registered, 50-60% voted in the most recent local (59.64%), national (57.89%), and legislative (50.71%) elections. Age plays a direct role in voting behavior, as older users are more likely to have voted in local, national, and legislative elections. Over one quarter of the 19-25 yr. old respondents (27.44%) report not voting in any elections. No major gender differences were observed.

Electronic Privacy

We predicted correctly that issues of data privacy would become increasingly important as the Internet became a part of many people's daily lives. This refined questionnaire, which was originally launched a year ago in the Fifth Survey, provides some of the freshest insights into users' knowledge of and concerns about data privacy issues.

How often do people falsify online registration information?

For the Seventh Survey, 59.93% of respondents said they had never provided false information to a site when registering (compared to 63.1% on the Sixth Survey). This means that approximately 40% of respondents have provided false information. A total of 14.59% of users report falsifying information over 25% of the time--a disturbing number if you are trying to make the claim that the collected demographics of a site's online registered users are representative of the entire set of users for that site.

A larger percentage of females than males report never having falsified information (68.00% of females vs. 56.35% of males). Also, the likelihood of having provided false information decreases with age. Both of these trends were also found in the Sixth Survey.

Why do people not register at sites?

From this Survey and the Sixth Survey, it has been established that people falsify information of online registrations with some regularity and that online community very seriously values it's anonymity. This question attempt to understand why people r esist online registration. The most widely cited reason for not registering is that the terms and conditions of how the collected information is going to be used is not clearly specified (69.34%). Users also feel very strongly that revealing the requested information is not worth being able to access the site (64.49%). Thus, while the foremost problem of terms and conditions of user can be easily rectified, the latter problem of making the trade-off between demographic collected and accessing a site is not as straight forward (we address this issue of possible solutions in Terms and Conditions for Revealing Demographic Information). An equally difficult issue is building trust between entities. Over 62% report that they do not trust the collecting sites. Efforts that attempt to help ensure the data privacy standards of sites, like E-Trust may be able to help alleviate this lack of trust.

As with the Sixth Survey, the time it takes to complete the form is a factor (42.42%), but not as significant as the others. Much of the remaining difficulties reside in the type of information collected, with 44.51% not registering because of postal m ail address requirements, 31.28% because of name requirements, and 25.46% email requirements. Thus, proposals that call for business cards to be built into browsers and protocol which would enable them to be easily deposited at sites is probably not the c ure-all for this problem but ought to help. The overall ranking of reasons for not registering and the percentages are consistent with the findings from the Sixth Survey.

What information do people think ought to be automatically recorded during a Web transaction?

If users were given their way, how would they implement protocols and applications with respect to what information is available to be logged per page requested over the WWW? As with the Sixth Survey, three out of four users agree that sites ought to be able to record the page that is requested (74.27% Seventh vs. 76.60% Sixth) and the time of the page request (70.95% Seventh vs. 74.42% Sixth). Under half (43.98% Seventh vs. 43.71% Sixth) feel that the browser that users are using ought to be collected. The machine name/address (28.04% Seventh vs. 27.00% Sixth), the operating system the user operates (28.33 Seventh vs. 26.83% Sixth), the user's email address (19.56% Seventh vs. 21.03% Sixth), and the location of the user (18.36% Seventh vs. 19.70% Sixth) are not high on people's list either. It is interesting to note that most users of the WWW can reliably gather all of the above information except email and location for every page request.

When asked about an identifier that would uniquely label users across sessions at a site, only one out of every five (20.75% Seventh vs. 19.08% Sixth) thought this should be possible. Yet, identifiers already exist and are widely supported by browsers, via cookies. In recent months, the controversy between data privacy advocates and the advertising community has received considerable attention in the popular media as well as within the US government. The data collected by the Sixth and Seventh Surveys do not support continued user of persistent session identifiers.

What are some of their opinions on various issues surrounding anonymity?

Privacy and anonymity go hand-in-hand, but exactly how does the Web community feel about the specific issues surround anonymity on the Internet? The below question asked people top rate their agreement/disagreement on a 5-point scale, with '1' representing strong disagreement, '5' representing strong agreement and '3' neutrality. Nearly everyone felt strongly that people ought to be able to have private communications over the Internet (4.70). People tend to seriously value the anonymous nature of the Internet (4.46). Most people prefer anonymous payment systems (3.93) and feel that the Internet needs new laws to protect privacy (3.79). While people tend to agree that they ought to be able to take on multiple roles/aliases on the Internet (3.67), the community seems to be all over the board on the use of key escrow systems (3.09), with nearly half stating agreement with a key escrow system and half expressing disagreement.

What would users like to be done about spamming?

For the Seventh Survey, we added the new response choice of creating a blacklist. While this addition makes comparison between the Sixth Survey and the Seventh Survey for the questions problematic, it helps clarify the popularity of different solutions.

From this and the Sixth Survey, users make very clear that they do not like to receive mass emailings, i.e., be spammed, but what do they propose to do about it? The most popular solution is an opt-out system where a registry would contain the addresses of people who do not wish to receive mass emailings (38.60%). This is similar to the system already in place in the US that exists to remove people from junk postal mailing lists. 13.77% responded in support of imposing an 'impact' fee on the agencies sending the mail. Exactly what this impact fee would be or how it would be implemented was not specified in the question. Somewhat surprisingly, only 8.18% voted in favor of government regulation making spamming illegal. These findings suggest that the online community favors the co-existence of users and spammers, but with users having more control.

WWW Usage & Preferences

Where do people access the Web from?

As with the Sixth and Fifth Surveys, the majority of respondents report that they primarily access the web from home, though there was an increase six months ago from the Fifth to the Sixth Surveys (60.38% Seventh vs. 63.6% Sixth vs. 55.40% Fifth). In Europe, however, only 40.10% (36.7% Sixth) report having their primary access from home (46.98% report having it from work). Across all age groups, most access the web primarily from home, but that is especially true for users over age 50 (78.1%). There are no observable gender differences.

Why do people use their Web browsers?

For the Seventh Survey, we added several new categories called "Information Gathering", "Searching", and "Communication." Since, users were allowed to mark more than one answer, certain comparisons between the Seventh Survey and previous Surveys is possible. The most common Web activity is to gather information (86.03%), followed by searching (63.01), browsing (61.29%), work (54.05%), education (52.21%), communication (47.02%), and entertainment (45.48%). Shopping remained stable (18.65%) from the Sixth Survey (18.83%), though this is much higher than the Fifth Survey a year ago where 14.91% reported shopping (11.1% in the Fourth Survey). For the US, one in five users report using the Web for shopping (20.32%). This represents a moderate and steady growth of the Web for shopping, a trend that is expected to continue, as online transactions become easier and more choices become available. Europeans tend to report less recreational uses of the Web than do US users.

What are the main problems with using the Web?

For the Seventh Survey, we added the choice of "broken links." Speed continues to be the number one problem facing Web users, with 66.31% of the users reporting that it takes too long to download pages. However, this represents a 10% decrease from the Sixth Survey (76.55) and a 14% decrease from the Fifth Survey one year ago. This effect is most likely due the increases in connect speed of users to the Internet. Almost half of the users report broken links as a big problem (49.90%), a situation with no immediate solution. The next big problems are "finding known info" (30.31% Seventh vs. 34.09% Sixth), organizing collected information (27.80% Seventh vs. 31.03% Sixth), and being able to find pages already visited (12.16% Seventh vs. 13.41% Sixth). Once again, cost does not seem to be an issue, with only 5.41% (7.75% Sixth) reporting this as a problem. Given that the average household income of Web users is well above the normal population, this is not very surprising and cannot be taken to mean that the Web is currently affordable for all. Males are more likely to complain about speed and organizing information while females are more likely to cite broken links and finding known information as the biggest problems.

How often do people use the Web instead of watching TV?

Over one third (35.17% Seventh vs. 36.95% Sixth) of respondents claim that they use the Web instead of watching TV on a daily basis. An additional (27.06% Seventh vs. 29.03% Sixth) say the Web replaces TV on a weekly basis, usually more than once a week. This pattern almost exactly matches the pattern found in the Sixth and Fifth Surveys. These number when used in conjunction with the use of the email as being on equal par with the phone paint a tremendously strong picture of the rapid integration of the Internet and World Wide Web into the fabric of the lives of those who currently use it. This is truly an amazing feat to accomplish in only a few years! Respondents from Europe are far less likely to use the Web instead of watching TV; 31.56% (32.88% Sixth) say they have never used the Web instead of watching TV. Males and 50+ yr. olds supplement TV watching with Web surfing more so than the other segments of users.

How fast are people's connection to the Internet?

Modems still dominate the day for Web users. One third of the users report using 28.8 Kb/sec modems, with 19.68% using 33.3 Kb/sec, and 11.02% using 14.4 Kb/sec modems. This is a big change for the Sixth Survey sixth months ago where just over half of the users (51.40%) were using 28.8 Kb/sec modems and 19.69% were using 14.4 Kb/sec modems. As once might expect, this represents a continued significant shift towards faster communication devices.

Purchasing, Security, and Vendors

This set of questionnaires provides an in-depth view of not only what purchases people make online, by also where they gather product information, comparisons of online commerce to other mediums, attitudes towards security and characteristics of Web vendors.

What do people purchase and gather information about on the WWW?

Using the web for seeking information about products continues to grow. Over 70% of respondents report using the web for seeking information about hardware and software over $50 compared to 66% in the Sixth survey. Respondents are more likely to seek information on more expensive products (over $50) but most choose to buy offline. The most popular item to purchase over the web is software under $50 with 36.2% having done this. Other than hardware and software, the two most popular items to seek information on and to purchase over the web are travel arrangements and books or magazines.

How much have people spent in the past sixth months and how much do they intend to spend?

Over 40% of respondents report spending over $100 in purchases over the web in the past six months. This percentage is up considerably from the Sixth survey where only 30% had spent this much. Also, only 31% predicted that they would spend over $100 six months ago. The slow trend toward increased spending on the web shown by this and other surveys should be encouraging to web vendors, but it should be interpreted with caution. For all categories of spending, respondents predict that they will spend less in the next six months than they have in the previous six months. The increased spending seen with this survey may reflect the seasonal (Christmas/Hanukkah) fluctuations which are common in retail sales .

Are people comfortable with sending credit card information over the WWW?

This question asked users to state their agreement(5)/disagreement(1) on a 5 point scale about providing credit card information through the Web. The slow trend toward increased acceptance of the web as a purchasing medium continues. In the Fourth survey, people agreed fairly strongly that having to provide credit card information over the web was a main reason they didn't buy through the web (3.6). This dropped to 3.4 in the Sixth survey and to 3.2 in the most recent survey. Women are much more cautious than men when it comes to providing credit card information and still agree that giving it out over the web is just plain foolish (3.6 women, 2.9 men). Older respondents are also more cautious. Dealing with a well-known vendor, lower prices, and better services are all factors that might persuade younger respondents to provide credit card information online.

What do users think of Web vendors?

For this question, users were asked to rate their satisfaction of delivery, support services, and quality of different types of vendors. Higher scores indicate increased satisfaction. The most preferred for all characteristics (delivery, support service, and quality) is retail or service stores. This is closely followed by catalog mail order and online mail order with very little difference between the two. These three types of vendors scored between 3.5 and 4.0 on a five-point scale for all three characteristics. Home shopping services were the least preferred and received a neutral response (3.0) for all three characteristics.

Web Authors and Java

This is a refined set of questions launched in the Fifth Survey that asks Web authors about their uses and perceptions of Java, a programming language developed at Sun Microsystems which can be used to add interactivity to Web pages. We also introduced a few questions about Microsoft's ActiveX technology.

Have you used Java and do you plan to use it in the future?

The percentage of authors who have programmed in Java doubled in the past year to 34.15% in the Seventh Survey (17.3% in the Fifth Survey conducted April 1996) and 24.4% in the Sixth Survey (conducted October 1996). A higher percentage of Europeans have used Java, which might result from their stronger programming backgrounds (40.00% Europe vs. 33.21% US).

Close to two thirds of the authors surveyed plan to use Java in the next year (65.39%), with only 16.86% not planning on using Java. Compared to a year ago, more users are planning on using Java (58.08% Fifth), as well as slightly more authors are not planning on using Java (15.48% Fifth). As programmers and businesses become more familiar with Java, they have a better idea of how Java fits into development. Consequently, respondents are more certain this time as to whether or not they will be using Java in the next year.

Have you used ActiveX and do you plan to use it in the future?

The Seventh Survey is the first time we asked this question. Almost one in every five authors claims to have used ActiveX (18.70%), though the proportion of ActiveX users in Europe is significantly lower than in the US (13.81% Europe vs. 19.17% US).

Again, this is the first survey we asked this question. The number of authors who report that they plan to use ActiveX in the next year is 18.35%, with 21.95% being undecided and 59.70% reporting that they do not plan on using ActiveX

What are the major advantages of Java?

This question asked Web authors what they thought the major advantages of Java were. Respondents could choose more than one answer. Consistent with the findings in the Sixth Survey, more than half of respondents cited Java's platform independence as a major advantage (66.92%). About a third (35.36%) identified the fact that Java doesn't require special permissions to run (unlike CGI programs) as an advantage and 23.99% thought the level of interactivity it provided was an advantage. Europeans more than Americans saw the platform independence a major advantage.

What are authors' perceptions and knowledge of Java's security?

The response profile to this question has changed significantly in the past six months. The largest category of users said that they thought Java was "somewhat secure." This shows an increased perception of the security of Java since the Sixth and Fifth Surveys. Over a third of the respondents (34.93%), report not knowing about he security of Java (45.36% Sixth). Of those who gave it a rating, only 3.97% (8.3% Sixth) thought it was very insecure, 12.8% (28.0% Sixth) said somewhat insecure, 39.04% (29.79% Sixth) said somewhat secure and 9.23% (4.96% Sixth) thought it was very secure. This represents a distinct shift toward more trust in Java's security measured from the Sixth and Fifth Surveys.

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Survey Methodology

The Internet presents a unique problem for surveying. At the heart of the issue is the methodology used to collect responses from individual users. Since there is no central registry of all Internet users, completing a census, where an attempt is made to contact every user of the Internet, is neither practical nor feasible financially. As such, Internet surveys attempt to answer questions about all users by selecting a subset of users to participate in the survey. This process of determining a set of users is called sampling, since only a sample of all possible users is selected.


There are two types of sampling, random and non-probabilistic. Random sampling creates a sample using a random process for selection of elements from the entire population. Thus, each element has an equal chance of being chosen to become part of the sample. To illustrate, suppose that the universe of entities consists of a hat that contains five slips of paper. A method to select elements from the hat using a random process would be to 1) shake the contents of the hat, 2) reach into the hat, and 3) pick an slip of paper with one's eyes closed. This process would ensure that each slip of paper had an equal chance of being selected. As a result, one could not claim that some slips of paper were favored over the others, causing a bias in the sample.

Given that the sample was selected using a random, and each element had an equal chance of being selected for the sample, results obtained from measuring the sample can generalize to the entire population. This statistical affordance is why random sampling is widely used in surveys. After all, the whole purpose of a survey is to collect data on a group and have confidence that the results are representative of the entire population. Random digit dialing, also called RDD, is a form of random sampling where phone numbers are selected randomly and interviews of people are conducted over the phone.

Non-probabilistic sampling does not ensure the elements are selected in random manner. It is difficult then to guarantee that certain portions of the population were not excluded from the sample since elements do not have an equal chance of being selected. To continue with the above example, suppose that the slips of paper are colored. A non-probabilistic methodology might select only certain colors for the sample. It becomes possible that the slips of paper that were not the chose differ in some way from those that were selected. This would indicate a systematic bias in the sampling methodology. Note that it is entirely possible that the colored slips that were not selected did not differ from the selected slips, but this could only be determined by examining both sets of slips.


Since there is no centralized registry of all users of the Internet and users are spread out all over the world, it becomes quiet difficult to select users of the entire population at random. To simplify the problem most surveys of the Internet focus on a particular region of users, which is typically the United States, though surveys of European, Asian, and Oceanic users have also been conducted. Still, the question becomes how to contact users and get them to participate. The traditional methodology is to use RDD. While this ensures that the phone numbers and thus users are selected at random, it potentially suffers from other problems as well, namely self-selection.

Self-selection occurs when the entities in the sample are given a choice to participate. If a set of members in the sample decides not to participate, it reduces the ability of the results to generalize to the entire population. This decrease in the confidence of the survey occurs since the group of that decided not to participate may differ in some manner from the group that participated. It is important to note that self-selection occurs in nearly all surveys of people. In the case of RDD, if a call is placed to a number in the sample and the user hangs up the phone, self-selection has occurred. Likewise, if in a mail-based survey, certain users do not respond, self-selection has occurred. While there are techniques like double sampling to deal with those members who chose not to participate or respond, most surveys do not employ these techniques due to their high cost.

GVU's WWW User Survey Methodology

Unlike most other surveys, GVU's WWW User Surveys are conducted over the Web, i.e., participants respond to questionnaires posted on the Web. In fact, GVU pioneered the entire field of Web-based surveying in January of 1994, being the first publicly accessible Web-based survey. The GVU Center conducts the surveys every sixth months as a public service to the WWW community.

The GVU Surveys employ non-probabilistic sampling. Participants are solicited in the following manner:

There are several points to be made here. First, the above methodology has evolved due the fact there is no broadcast mechanism on the Web that would enable participants to be selected or notified at random. As such, the methodology attempts to propagate the presence of the surveys though diverse mediums. Second, high exposure sites are sites that capture significant portion of all WWW user activity as measured by PC-Meter. These sites are specifically targeted to increase the likelihood that the majority of WWW users will have been given an equal opportunity to participate in the surveys. Additionally, content neutral sites are chosen from the list of most popular sites to reduce the chance of imposing a systematic bias in the results. Finally, the Seventh Survey is the first survey to experiment with the random rotation of banners through advertising networks. The ability for the advertising networks to randomly rotate banners is a relatively new, one that did not really exist during the first three years of GVU's Surveys. This ability goes a long way towards ensuring that members of the WWW community have been selected at random. Since this technique is still quite experimental, it's effect on the reliability of the results in unable to be determined, though we will be examining this effect in future research.

New to the Sixth Survey was the introduction of an incentive cash prizes. Respondents that completed at least four questionnaires became eligible to for the several $250 US awards. Our initial investigation into the effect of including incentives into the design of the surveys reveals that while the overall number of respondents did not increase tremendously, the total number of completed questionnaires did increase significantly. Compared to the Third Survey, which had over 23,000 respondents to the General Questionnaire and 60,000 completed questionnaires (average 2.6 complete questionnaires/user), the Seventh Survey received over 19,000 responses to the General Questionnaire and close to 88,000 completed questionnaires (average 4.6 complete questionnaires/user). The effect of offering incentives on self-selection is an open research issue, though it is a technique that has been employed widely though out traditional survey methodologies, e.g., Nielsen's set-top box sample, etc.

Since random sampling techniques are not employed consistently though out the methodology, the ability of the collected data to generalize to the entire population is reduced, because certain members of the Web user community may not have had an equal chance to participate. The characteristics of these users may differ significantly from those users who did participate in the surveys. As it turns out, comparison of the GVU's WWW User Surveys results to other WWW User data published that utilize random techniques reveal that the main area where GVU's Surveys show a bias exists in the experience, intensity of usage, and skill sets of the users, but not the core demographics of users1. Intuitively this makes sense, as only those users that are able to use the WWW are able to participate in the Surveys, whereas a set of RDD users may claim to be able to use the Internet or have used the Web at some time in the past. These users are not likely to be included in the GVU results. However, for many marketing needs, this bias is exactly what is desired of the data: real data from real users online today.

Given the limitations that exist in the data as a result of the methodology, we make the following recommendation to those using the data presented within this report:

Despite the evidence to support the Survey results, we remain unconvinced that the Survey's sampling methodology is optimal and welcome suggestions and further comments on this subject.

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Technical Information

Descriptive Statistics

All analyzes were performed using Splus version 3.3 for Unix.


The Surveys were executed on a dedicated quad processor Sun Sparc 20's. All HTML pages were generated on the fly via our Survey Engine (written in PERL). For more information about how the Surveys Engine actually works, see the write-up in the paper on the Second Survey Results. For those interested in more information about the Adaptive Java Surveying Applet, please see the write up in Surveying the Territory: GVU's Five WWW User Surveys, Colleen M. Kehoe & James E. Pitkow, The World Wide Web Journal, Vol. 1, no. 3. Please direct inquiries about the availability of the survey code to: www-survey@cc.gatech.edu.

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Special Thanks

Special thanks go to Georgia Tech's College of Computing's Computer Network Services for their excellent expert support, especially: Dan Forsyth, Bryan Rank, Peter Wan, Karen Barrett, and David Leonard.

Questionnaires and advice were contributed by:

Additional thanks are extended to:
The fabulous artwork used as the logo for these pages was created and generously loaned to the surveys by the following artist/graphic designer: Allyana Ziolko

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GVU's WWW Surveying Team
Graphics, Visualization, & Usability Center
College of Computing
Georgia Institute of Technology
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