The Beating Heart of the Internet


Earlier this month, the Pew Internet & American Life Project released its report "A Portrait of Early Internet Adopters: Why People First Went Online — And Why They Stayed." No great surprises in this study but still worthy of a mention here.

The researchers found that social networking on the ‘Net has always been a draw for online users. Back in the days before the Web, BBSs, Usenet, chat rooms and threaded discussions were the precursors of Facebook, Friendster, Myspace and the numerous other social networking sites of today. Pew’s survey of several hundred longtime Internet users said social networking was the most appealing initial online draw for them. The report quotes one respondent as saying their first-time online experience was with a time-shared mainframe computer in 1972, and by 1976 they were social networking on it. The report’s writer quotes another earlier Pew report: "…the beating heart of the Internet has always been its ability to leverage our social connections."

What has evolved with warp speed over the past decade and a half is that these longtime online users are not only still consumers of online content, but creators and producers as well. Initially, while people used search engines, got their news, played games, and emailed friends, family and colleagues, once they got access to new and easier-to-use online tools, and got faster connections they began to create content: photos, writing, videos and audio files.

Pew found another common sentiment among those surveyed: they think more change lies ahead in the online experience and they are eager to watch and participate.

Hat tip: Boing Boing