Pew: Search, Email Remain Top Web Draw

Pew Research said search and email from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and other incumbents are still huge, with 92 percent using both types of Web services with regularity.

Surprise. Search and email are the two leading online activities, with 92 percent of U.S. adult Internet users using Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Microsoft Bing (NASDAQ:MSFT), Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) and email from those companies and others, according to a Pew Internet Project surveys.

Pew polled 2,277 adults from April 26 to May 22 for its results, which cemented search and email as the two most popular Web behaviors over the last decade.

Pew Research Associate Director Kristen Purcell said 59 percent of those surveyed said they used search on a typical day, with 61 percent reporting that they email on a usual day.

But this is hardly a new trend. Pew began tracking these behaviors in 2002, when it found that more than 8 in 10 online adults were using search engines and more than 9 in 10 online adults were emailing.

"Perhaps the most significant change over the past decade is that both activities have become more habitual," Purcell wrote in her report. "Today, roughly 6 in 10 online adults engage in each of these activities on a typical day; in 2002, 49 percent of online adults used email each day, while just 29 percent used a search engine daily."

Specifically, 52 percent of all Americans used search engines in 2002. That number grew to 72 percent in the most recent survey. Also, 55 percent of all Americans said they used email in 2002. That stat ballooned to 70 percent in the current survey.

She added that search and email continue to be the most prevalent among the youngest adult Web users, as well as those who are more educated and affluent.

Email use is comparable across white, African-American and Hispanic online adults, though white online adults are significantly more likely than both African-American and Hispanic online adults to be email users on a typical day (63 percent versus 48 percent versus 53 percent, respectively).

So search and email clearly remain alive and well today. This fact comes despite the rise of new platforms, such as social networks, which 65 percent of users reported using, and e-commerce, which 76 percent of users admitted using.

Yet search and email remain true standbys. One of the reasons is that these two activities provide the most comfortable, if not convenient, ways for users to find information online and communicate with users using text-based messaging, including sending files, photos and video.

Search popularity certainly plays out in the market, where Google searchers log billions of queries a month for a 65 percent U.S. search share, according to comScore.

Microsoft's Bing has grown to grab over 14 percent market share from just 8 percent in two years. Even the beleaguered Yahoo isn't lacking for search traffic, hanging around the 16 percent U.S. share mark, according to comScore's July estimates.

As for email, hundreds of millions of users access Webmail applications, such as Google's Gmail, Microsoft Live Hotmail and Yahoo Mail. A decade ago, Gmail didn't exist, and Yahoo Mail and Hotmail duked it out for tens of millions of users.

So Webmail use has clearly blossomed, even in the face of Facebook's meteoric rise since it launched in 2004. Pew's survey shows that Facebook isn't necessarily cutting into the frequency of email use.