In the decade ending 2010, Internet participation by American adults almost doubled from 37% to 71%, according to Pew, and two-thirds of adults now use high speed Internet. Now, just a tenth of adults say the Internet is irrelevant to their interests, and only 4% claim it’s hard to use. This success story is strengthening due to mutually reinforcing progress in devices, applications and software, prices, security, and consumer readiness. It’s not just the devices, and not just the apps.
Internet and phone devices, software and application sites have kept in sync with consumers’ discretionary incomes. Notably, millions of boomers have entered the high income, well-educated stage. Their job experience with technology migrates into the home and their retirement pursuits.
Affordable robust laptops, the iPad, the iPhone, the Droid, “feature phones” and eReaders have lowered the threshold skill needed for novice Internet users to experience success quickly. Keyboarding no longer requires the humiliation of repeatedly fat-fingering a key you can’t really see. Batteries are much improved.
Competing big Internet security firms offer consumers competent firewall, anti-virus, and spam management suites at low prices. Site rating systems such as Yahoo’s help consumers avoid dicey vendors, pornography, and security risks. Even tracking cookies can be avoided with minimum effort. Consumers can easily set their privacy to a reasonable level. In addition, Microsoft has released plans for its IE9’s tracking tools, which will allow consumers to opt out of tracking on a selective basis.
Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter reinforce friend and family bonds for about a half billion Internet consumers – for free. Rigorous high quality educational sites such as MIT’s “open course ware” and TED Conferences are offered for free. Open Course Ware boasts 1.8 million site visitors a month of which 43% are professed “self-learners.” Advice from Dr. Oz and WebMD is competent, valued by consumers and free. For the ultimate authority there’s JAMA with its dozen professional medical journals. Banking, Federal and State Government sites have made themselves worth using.
Some consumers prefer to deal in pictures, some prefer text, some audio, some video, and some want live interaction. Today’s broadband speeds can support all of those. Combinations of devices and websites meet most consumers’ needs and preferences. Consumers are on the winning end of this Internet’s evolution.
Alan Daley is a retired businessman living in South Carolina. He follows information technology from the consumer’s perspective.