December 25, 2000

First there was road rage, then there was air rage, and now the World Wide Web has been added to the pantheon of frustration with Web rage. According to a new survey released by Roper Starch Worldwide and sponsored by WebTop, the next generation search engine specialist and subsidiary of Bright Station, the dizzying amount of information available on the Internet has brought about this new phenomenon. According to the survey, 71% of Internet users get frustrated when searching the Internet for information.

Thirty-four year-old Vita Austria, an administrative assistant for a manufacturing company in Rhode Island, is aggravated: "When I first started using search engines, I was amazed at the amount of information I could find. But lately, my searches are coming up short. Instead of finding what I need, I end up being linked to silly and useless information, advertising banners and promotional garbage. Is it just me or is searching getting more stressful?"

More often that not, Vita ends up giving up her online searches to call an actual person for the information she needs. Recently she was called upon to gather information on the helicopter industry and ended up finding results on toy planes and tips on how to fly helicopters. Vita adds, "I just want to find a search engine that gives me more focused results."

While the Web is wonderful, it is no universal remedy. New technologies do not necessarily mean less work. According to Laurel Smith-Doerr, Assistant Sociology Professor from Boston University, "I think that people tend to feel ambiguous about technology. On the one hand, having access to the Internet and various search engines allows us to locate information much faster than in the days of card catalogs. On the other hand, access to the Internet may produce a sense of 'information overload' when thousands of hits result from one search."

Smith-Doerr further explains, "While I think that many people realize that Internet searching may save time, this positive feeling can create unrealistic expectations about the actual time required to find information online."

How do users feel about the avalanche of data at their fingertips? Stressed out. According to the Roper Starch survey:

Over one-third (36%) of Internet users report that they spend more than two hours per week searching the Web for accurate information.

A majority (71%) of Internet users get frustrated when searching the Internet for accurate information. On average, it takes about 12 minutes before a user gets frustrated when searching the Internet.

46% of users said uncovering the wrong information during an online search is frustrating.

86% of users feel that Web searching could be more efficient.

Andy Mitchell, search expert and Chief Executive Officer of WebTop says, "What online searchers need is a reliable source for fast, accurate information. WebTop recognizes this need and we're dedicated to developing solutions to ensure that the user has a pleasurable experience online."

Following is a list of tips from WebTop for putting an end to Web rage:

More words equal better results. Use a search engine that accepts longer, detailed queries rather than simple keyword searches. The user is more likely to receive relevant results by providing the search engine with a phrase or body of text to analyze.

Categorized results. Rather than using an engine that simply lists hundreds of results, look for one that attempts to organize results in a logical way (i.e., Webtop's Zones).

Ease of use. Look for a search engine that can be used as a desktop application. WebTop allows users to drag and drop text into a desktop application without launching a separate browser.

Up-to-date information. Although a search engine may have a large database, does it re-index its pages every day? If not, you may not be getting the most up-to-date information as in the case of WebTop, which re-indexes 15 million pages per day to keep its half a billion page index current.

The findings presented in this report are based on telephone interviews with a national random cross-section of 566 adults, 18 years or age and older who access the Internet either from home and/or away from home. The findings in this report are projectable to this population with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points. Subgroup analyses will have a larger margin of sampling error. The interviewing was conducted from July 27, 2000 to August 1, 2000.

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