Graying of the Web

May 23, 2008

We came across some interesting info recently on age and Internet use.

The under-30 crowd still dominates most categories on the Web, but older Americans are showing growth in some key areas of the Internet.

According to Hitwise.com, the 55+ age group has nearly doubled its presence on social networking sites in the last two years. From January 2006 to January 2008, the percentage of users age 55+ on social networking sites nearly doubled, from 6% to 11%. Meanwhile, the percentage of social networkers aged 18-24 dropped from 37% to 27%.

Facebook has seen big gains among older users, too. According to Forrester Research via David Erickson, the percentage of Facebook users age 35+ grew from 36% to 45% from fall ’06 to fall ’07.

During that same time, the percentage of Facebook users aged 18-24 dropped from 35% to 23%.

That means there are now twice as many 35+ Facebook users as there are college-age users, the group for which the site was originally developed.

A caveat, however: Social networking sites as a whole have lost Internet market share in the last year. Social networking peaked in June 2007, when social network visits accounted for 9% of overall Web traffic, according to Hitwise.

By February ’08, social networking’s Web traffic share had dropped to 5.9%. Hitwise blames a number of factors, including a backlash against advertising and consumer weariness with too many networking-related activities (friend requests, notifications, etc.).