Do You Play Tag Online?

Tagging, the emblematic activity of the "Web 2.0" and social-computing era, appears destined for mainstream status, a new study concludes.

Among U.S. Internet users, 28 percent have tagged content online, such as blog entries, photos, Web sites, video clips, and news articles, The Pew Internet & American Life Project reports in a study released this week. On any particular day, 7 percent of users engage in this activity to categorize and label material that they upload or find on the Web.

By giving people the chance to organize online content they're interested in and share it with others, tagging helps with the perennial challenge of finding useful things on the Web. "Tagging is a kind of next-stage search phenomenon--a way to mark, store, and then retrieve the Web content that users already found valuable and of which they want to keep track," the report reads.

Because this is Pew's first survey about tagging, the study doesn't quantify how fast tagging adoption is growing, but it does point at the rising popularity of tagging sites like Flickr and as an indicator that the practice is increasing in popularity.

Why Is Tagging Taking Off?

Tagging is catching on as people realize the convenience of categorizing sites and files online, and as large Internet players like Google and Yahoo--the latter of which owns Flickr and tagging features in their own services, including Web mail, search, photo and video sharing, and social bookmarking, according to Pew.

"The act of tagging is likely to be embraced by a more mainstream population in the future because many organizations are making it easier and easier to tag Internet content," the report says.

For its study, Pew surveyed adult U.S. residents in December 2006 and found that men and women are equally likely to tag content online. "Taggers" are more likely to be under the age of 40, to have high education and income levels, and to have broadband Internet access at home.

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