Twenty years ago, roughly 50 percent of Americans had access to the internet. Today, that figure has skyrocketed – with new statistics showing that the US has reached a staggering 282 million internet users in 2020.
As the total population of America is currently around 331 million, this means approximately 9 people in 10 now use the internet in the United States.
From ordering our groceries and playing games at our favorite casino, to going on dates and finding our next job, it seems that every aspect of our lives can be controlled from our smartphones.
In this article, we’ll be exploring the new statistic, looking at the history of internet usage in the United States, and examining the most popular activities made possible by the internet.
US is the third largest internet user in the world
It’s estimated that the number of internet users worldwide is 4.4 billion, which represents 57% of the global population. The largest internet user is China, which has more than 904 million people connected to the Internet. India is second with approximately 719 million, thanks in part to the increased adoption of the Internet in rural areas.
Despite having a difference of over 400 million, the United States clocks in at third position on the list of global internet users. Below them is Indonesia, which is home to around 171 million users.
The history of the internet in the USA
As the World Wide Web which we’d almost recognize today, the internet first came to the United States in the 1990s. This was shortly after home computers became popular. According to the Current Population Survey (CPS), around 8% of US households owned a computer in 1984 – and almost 60% of the owners reported that they were still learning how to use it. The most common activities carried out on these computers were word processing, looking for jobs, and playing games such as video games and slots.
Between 1997 and 2001, the number of internet users in America leapt from less than 20% of the population to more than 50%. By 2016, 89% of American households told the CPS that they owned a computer or smartphone, with 77% of these specifically owning a desktop or laptop. 81% of households had a broadband Internet connection, and recent statistics suggest there are 132.9 mobile broadband subscriptions for every 100 Americans.
Within the United States, Washington has the highest number of internet users, with 87% of its population reporting having broadband. With 71%, Mississippi and Arkansas have the lowest number.
What do Americans spend their time doing online?
With so many internet users across the United States, what are the most popular online activities in America? According to surveys, social media and online shopping are two of the most widely enjoyed activities, with one Statista study showing that 55% of Internet users regularly comment on online posts (at least once a week).
One of the key factors which influences the way Americans spend their time online is age. Unsurprisingly, social media usage is concentrated among 18-29 year olds. For internet users aged 60 and above, the most popular activities include looking for political news, checking the weather forecasts, and online banking.
As the number of internet users across America increases, we’ll see an increasingly connected world in the coming years.
Story by Emilla Koistinen