The Internet is everywhere, from cellphones to desktops. We use social media sites to communicate and spend lots of time shopping online. But do any of us understand how the Internet really works?
A new study by the Pew Center for Internet and American Life suggests the answer is no. Pew created a quiz to test people's knowledge of the Internet. More than 1,000 people took the 17-question test, which included questions on Web terms, famous tech figures, history of technological advances, and structures of the Internet. Most users were able to identify tech giants, but when it came to harder questions, people had a difficult time.
"[R]elatively few internet users are familiar with certain concepts that underpin the internet and other modern technological advances," Aaron Smith, senior researcher for the Pew Research Center's Internet Project, wrote. "Only one third (34 percent) know that Moore’s Law relates to how many transistors can be put on a microchip, and just 23 [percent] are aware that 'the Internet' and 'the World Wide Web' do not, in fact, refer to the same thing."
The study is part of a series commemorating the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web. On March 12, 1989, Tim Berners-Lee wrote a paper about an "information management" system, which became the basis of the Web. He eventually released the code for the system on Dec. 25, 1990.
When shown a photo of a tech giant, 83 percent of people were able to identify that it was Bill Gates, but only 9 percent of respondents were able to say Mosaic was the first popular graphical Web browser.
It also seems that Internet users have kept up on recent news events. Of those who took the test, 61 percent were able to identify what the term "Net Neutrality" means (Hint: it's equal treatment of digital content).
"On the other hand, fewer than half (44 percent) are aware that when a company posts a privacy statement, it does not necessarily mean that they are actually keeping the information they collect on users confidential," Mr. Smith said.
Pew also looked at how well people did based on age and education level. The study found that younger people have more knowledge about the Internet.
"Compared with older Americans, younger internet users are especially likely to know that Facebook originated at Harvard University and that hashtags are commonly used on Twitter, to correctly identify pictures representing phrases like 'captcha' and 'advanced search,' and to understand the definition of a 'wiki,' " Smith said.
The study also found that college graduates did better on the survey. Those who have graduated college were far more likely to know that Twitter has a 140-character limit, and that URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator.
"Still, there are some elements of the technology world on which even this highly educated group rates poorly," Smith wrote. "For instance, just one in five correctly answered that the internet and World Wide Web are not the same thing, and only 12 [percent] know that Mosaic was the first widely available graphical web browser."