Around 18 million Britons are now online, according to BMRB’s Internet Monitor, with increasing numbers using the internet for leisure-related activities.

The proportion of surfers hitting websites for “business purposes” fell from 43% to 40% in the year to November, says the survey, while those scouring the net for school or college work tumbled from 42% to 36%.

On the other hand, web-based leisure activities (such as travel, entertainment and sending messages to friends) are increasing as motivations for going online. Recording particularly rapid growth in this sector was game playing, a pastime enjoyed by 31% of respondents in November 2001 compared with 25% a year earlier.

In addition, shopping and financial services sites are growing in popularity. The proportion of surfers visiting an e-tailer rose from 57% to 68%, while those going to online banking destinations jumped from 29% to 41%.

BMRB suggests that lying behind these trends is a change in the profile of internet users, not least the increasing online presence of women and over-45s.

Data sourced from: Daily Research News Online; additional content by WARC staff