GVU Survey Results: Fall 1998
The Graphic, Visualization & Usability Center at the Georgia Institute of Technology surveys web users every six months. The survey does not use a random sample, so the data may be skewed from the overall norm. However, the survey does provide a rough estimate as to how the web is used. Below is information from the survey related to searching and search engines.
One question asks, "How do you find out about new WWW pages/sites?" My assumption is that most users probably interpret this to mean how they find sites in general, not just new sites. Below is data from the latest survey, conducted from Oct. 10 - Dec. 15, 1998:
KEY (this shows exactly the choices users were given) -- SE: Internet search engines (e.g., Alta Vista, Lycos, etc.); Links: Follow hyperlinks from other Web pages; Friends: Friends; Print: Magazines/newspapers; Dir: Internet directories (e.g., Yahoo, McKinley, etc.); Sigs: Signatures at end of email messages; TV: Television advertisements; Usenet: Usenet newsgroups; Other: Other Sources; Books: Books
Search engines are one of the most popular means of finding web sites, second only to following links on web pages. Directories such as Yahoo follow further behind, but I suspect many of those surveyed confused directories with search engines.
Here's a look at answers over time, which shows that search engines consistently remain a top choice for finding information.
Search Services Used
Another question asks, "Please indicate which of the following Navigation / Search Services have you used in the past six months." Below is data from the latest survey, conducted from Oct. 10 - Dec. 15, 1998:
KEY: YH=Yahoo, AV=AltaVista, EX=Excite, LY=Lycos, Go=Go/Infoseek, HB=HotBot, WC=WebCrawler, G2N=Go2Net/MetaCrawler, AOL=AOL NetFind. For links to these services, see Major Search Engines.
I wouldn't depend on these numbers to determine which services are most popular. For one thing, several major search engines such as MSN Search were not choices. I also think the demographics of this survey, which leans toward more advanced and expert web users, may tend to skew the choices much more away from the norm. In contrast, ratings from Media Metrix or Nielsen NetRatings provide better guidance about search engine popularity.
Here's a look at answers over time:
GVU WWW User Surveys