Surveying the Territory: GVU's Five WWW User Surveys

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Kehoe, Colleen Mary
Pitkow, James Edward
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Five years is not very long on most historical scales, but for the World Wide Web (WWW) it constitutes a lifetime. A question almost as old as the web itself is, "Who is using it, and for what?" One way to answer this question is to use paper surveys, telephone surveys, or diaries which are some of the the same methods used to measure the audiences of other one-way media such as television and radio. However, something interesting happened in early 1994: the implementation of HTML Forms turned the web into a two-way medium which made it possible to contact the audience directly. To test the viability of the web as a survey medium and collect preliminary data on the web population, the first GVU WWW User Survey was conducted in January 1994. Subsequent surveys have been conducted approximately every six months. The collection of responses from over 55,000 Web users over five surveys has given us a unique perspective on the advances in surveying technology and methodology and changes in the web population itself. In the following sections, we discuss what we have learned in each of these areas.
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