Top 10 Uses of the Internet

By Corbin HartwickUpdated on November 23, 2017

There are so many different things that the Internet has made capable, but what do people really use the Internet for the most? We've compiled a list of 10 major ways that people around the world use the Internet (roughly in descending order of popularity).

1. Email and personal communication

Yup, one of the earliest functions of the Internet is still one of its most popular. Many people on the Internet today use it to keep in touch with friends and family. Sending emails back and forth is the most common form of communication (with email services like Gmail), but other people use the Internet to have phone calls or video chats via certain programs like Skype.

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2. Social networks and mass communication

One of the most popular new things to do on the Internet is to express oneself and make new friends via social networks. Sure, there are plenty of dating websites around, but many of the most popular social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, are more general hang-out spots where one can let the world know what they're up to, and see what everyone else is doing. There are also forums and chat rooms for having more in-depth discussions, or web logs ("blogs") for writing down — and maybe even broadcasting — what you're thinking or feeling.

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3. General research

We've compared the World Wide Web to a library before, and perhaps unsurprisingly, that's how a lot of people use it. Popular search engines like Google Search, Bing, and DuckDuckGo are used by millions of people daily to find places to get information on certain topics. More specialized sites can be used to find maps of places and driving directions, weather forecasts, or health and medical information. And, of course, the Internet is an invaluable tool for academics researching their latest dissertation… or perhaps just a grade-schooler looking to finish their year-end project.

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4. Information about hobbies and Interests

Needless to say, need-to-know info isn't the only thing that people look for on the Internet. There are plenty of websites out there devoted to information about popular pastimes, such as sports, books, movies, TV, music, or video games. Some games, shows, movies, bands, books, or people even have entire websites dedicated to them! One might also use the Internet to search for information on a certain product or products that they want to buy, and then make comparisons in order to choose what's right for them. An example is the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), a website that provides information, ratings, reviews, and opportunities for discussion on various aspects of movies, television shows, and video games.

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5. News

One of the most notable features about the Internet is its immediacy, both in terms of how fast information is posted and spread, and how soon it can be accessed. Many people nowadays don't bother to wait for the morning newspaper, or for the evening news broadcast on their radio or TV. They simply find a news site on the Internet and get the day's top stories from there. There are even some specialty news websites, such as the Huffington Post or the Drudge Report, that offer news relevant to specific audiences or from certain perspectives.

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6. Shopping

The Internet has made getting that must-have item more convenient than ever, thanks to the rise of e-commerce websites such as Amazon and eBay that ship products right to one's doorstep. Some people even make a living by making and selling items on online marketplaces. Another popular Internet use in this vein is for booking reservations, including for restaurants, concerts, movies, or travel accommodations.

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7. Watching videos or listening to music

Whether it's watching short, 30-second clips of something funny or cute, or watching an entire movie or TV show episode, using video-streaming services such as YouTube and Netflix has become an immensely popular pastime on the Internet. In addition, many people now use Internet radio stations such as Spotify to quickly find a blend of music that they enjoy, instead of going up and down the radio dial looking for a station with a specific music format.

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8. Playing games

What would a great technological innovation like the Internet be if one couldn't have fun with it? There are all sorts of games nowadays that make use of the Internet. Some are simple games that can be played right in one's web browser. Others, though, are sold in stores and use the Internet to connect multiple players for a rich free-for-all, team battle, or even open-world experience. There are even websites, such as Luminosity, that are dedicated to special games that are designed to actually help your brain to function better!

9. Banking

Many people choose to forgo making it out to the bank during operating hours and manage their finances from the comfort of their own home. Of course, since there is a lot of sensitive information involved, banks use very tight security measures to make sure all of their clients' assets are safe. There are even programs for mobile devices now that allow one to deposit a cheque just by taking a picture of it! In addition, there are services such as PayPal that allow you to manage the things that you pay for (or get paid for) online; it is often used in conjunction with shopping websites.

10. Searching and applying for jobs

It's tough applying for a job or finding the right person for one's company, given the amount of legwork it entails. That's why many prospective professionals or businesses looking to hire have turned to the Internet as a resource to apply or recruit. From job-posting websites such as Monster and Workopolis to business-oriented social networks such as LinkedIn, the Internet is helping connect those who need a job done with those who can do it.

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