The Internet is increasingly a place where Americans just hang out.
Surfing the Web has become one of the most popular activities that Internet users will do online on a typical day. Some 30 percent of Internet users go online on any given day for no particular reason, just for fun or to pass the time.
This makes the act of hanging out online one of the most popular activities tracked by the Pew Internet & American Life Project and indicates that the online environment is increasingly popular as a place for people to spend their free time. Compared to other online pursuits, the act of surfing for fun now stands only behind sending or receiving email (52 percent of Internet users do this on a typical day) and using a search engine (38 percent of Internet users do this on a typical day), and is in a virtual tie for third with the act of getting news online (31 percent of Internet users do this on a typical day).
In aggregate figures, this development is striking because it represents a significant increase from the number of people who went online just to browse for fun on a typical day at the end of 2004. In a survey in late November 2004, about 25 million people went online on any given day just to browse for fun. In the Pew Internet Project survey in December, 2005, that number had risen to about 40 million people.
The Project's December survey asked about Web surfing in two ways. We asked all Internet users: “Do you ever go online for no particular reason, just for fun or to pass the time?” Two-thirds of Internet users, 66 percent, answered “yes” to this question, a percentage that has held about steady since we began asking the question in 2000.
We also asked Internet users if they went online “yesterday”, referring to the day before the current interview. Respondents who said “yes” were then asked, “Did you go online for no particular reason, just for fun or to pass the time yesterday?” In this case, 30 percent answered “yes.” We interpret the positive responses to indicate that 30 percent of Internet users were surfing the web for fun on an average day in December 2005. This figure shows striking growth compared to previous surveys when we asked the same questions.