August 10, 2011, 4:22 PM

For web activities, search and e-mail remain most popular

Social networking and web retailing trail their Internet elders, a Pew report says.

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Using a search engine and reading and writing e-mail remain the two most-popular online activities of U.S. consumers, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center, a nonprofit research group that studies consumer behavior and the Internet.

A survey conducted in May of some 2,200 U.S. adults via landline and mobile phones found that 92% of online adults use a search engine to help them find information on the web. 92% also use e-mail.

Search and e-mail have consistently ranked as the two most-popular activities since Pew began studying the online behavior of Americans in 2002, but the new report says the most significant difference is in how often Americans search and e-mail. 59%, or nearly six in 10 online adults, say they use search engines on a typical day, up from 29% in 2002. 61% say they use e-mail on a typical day, up from 49% in 2002.

Pew also says that relatively high-earning college graduates tend to use search more than do other consumers. But e-mail use is similar among white (93%), black (87%) and Hispanic (88%) consumers, although white consumers are more likely to consider e-mail as a typical everyday activity. 63% of white consumers say they send and receive e-mail on a typical day compared with 48% of blacks and 53% of Hispanics.

Other common Internet activities, in descending order of popularity, are getting news online, 76% today, up from 68% in 2002; buying products online, 71% today, up from 61% in 2002; and using social network sites, 65% today, up from 11% in 2005, the year Pew began tracking social network activity.

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