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SEX LOSES NET APPEAL
Tuesday, 2 April, 2002
Sex is finally losing its appeal on the net according to researchers in
Interest in sex and entertainment had been replaced by more serious surfing,
a study of 200,000 users conducted by Penn State University's School of
Information Technology has found.
The research, conducted over five years, found that in 1997 approximately
one in six web queries to search engine Excite was about sex.
By 2001 only one in 12 surfers was searching for sex and many of these
enquiries were about human sexuality rather than pornography.
Commerce beats sex
During the same period, searches related to commerce, travel and employment
rose from 13.3% in 1997 to 24.7% in 2001.
Researchers note that the increased interest in commerce and travel
coincided with an 80% increase in commercial content on web servers by 1999.
The study also found that surfers are becoming less patient with trawling
In 1997, people were willing to look harder for the information they wanted
- with fewer than 30% of Excite users examining only one page of results per
By 2001, the percentage of single-page searches had risen to more than 50%.
A frustrated 70% would not go beyond two pages of results.
"Our results indicate that a significant percentage of users continue to
have low tolerance for wading through large retrievals," said Amanda Spink,
who led the research project.
"Many people tend to take the first thing they get, no matter what the
"From other studies, we see that users jump on and off the web search
engines in little spurts, many times on the same topic," she added.
The waning popularity of porn is borne out by other net measurement firms.
According to JupiterMMXI, porn is not even in the top 10 websites.
Instead, portals like MSN, ticket booking services and corporate sites are
the most visited sites on the net.
Novelty wearing off
Some analysts believe that searching for porn has decreased simply because
there is no need to look for it these days.
The number of spam e-mails inviting people to pornographic websites has
increased phenomenally in recent years.
Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Watch believes the Penn State University
study is flawed because it looks at just one search engine.
"Excite has undergone significant change since 1997 and has diminished in
terms of popularity. It could be that on other search engines sex is still
popular," he said.
It could also be simply a case of the novelty wearing off, said one analyst
who declined to be named.
"Once people finally stopped looking up the rude words in the first ever
dictionary, they actually used it for proper reasons, like Scrabble and
trying to spell difficult words like Sequoia," he said.
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