Web 2.0 Goes Mainstream

NEW YORK Mainstream Internet users are employing simple tools to personalize their Web experiences, though they are skipping some of the popular totems of Web 2.0, according to a newly released survey.

Avenue A/Razorfish, the digital agency owned by Microsoft, released research that shows some Web 2.0 staples such as video sharing and personalized Web pages have gone mainstream.

Avenue A/Razorfish surveyed 475 U.S. Internet users across all demographics in July. The study targeted “connected consumers,” those that have broadband access and spend over $200 on e-commerce purchases per year. Avenue A/Razorfish estimated that such consumers represent about half of the overall population.

The study found that some of the most recent advances in content sharing have uneven adoption. For example, just 17 percent said they had shared bookmarks through services like the Yahoo!-owned Delicious. Even more mainstream activities such as photo sharing didn’t resonate: 59 percent said they never used sites like Flickr. A majority had never uploaded a video. About 65 percent said they never used tag clouds.

“It’s a mixed bag,” said Garrick Schmitt, vp, user experience at Avenue A/Razorfish. “Maybe the tag cloud is the mullet of the Internet. We’re not quite at a tipping point for mass adoption of these things.”

More mature Web 2.0 technologies have higher adoption: 85 percent used “most e-mailed/most popular stories” links, 60 percent personalized their home pages and nearly the same amount subscribed to RSS feeds. Blogs are regular fare: 61 percent read them on at least a weekly basis.

“They’re personalizing their digital experience and finding content relevant to them,” Schmitt said. “It’s not the same mainstream sources they’ve been getting it from for ages.”

The advent of new technologies has also altered entertainment consumption, the agency concluded. Avenue A/Razorfish found online video has hit the mainstream, with two-thirds of respondents saying they regularly watched YouTube videos and 95 percent reporting they had watched an online video over the previous three months.

When it comes to mobile technologies, consumers still overwhelmingly use their phones mainly for voice communications. The poll found 76 percent of respondents have never used their phones to watch video and 68 percent never listened to music on their handsets. A clear majority also never checked e-mail or news headlines by phone.

For retailers, the survey found the Web has established itself as a research tool for users, with a dominant position occupied by Google. Over half of the respondents said they started their online shopping at a search engine rather than visiting a retail Web site or e-commerce destination like Amazon. When it comes to making a buy, price tied with store brand (38 percent each) as the most important consideration.