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Study: American Web Traffic Peaks At 11 PM

September 3, 2009

If you’ve noticed that your late-night Web browsing tends to move a bit slower than normal, there may well be a good explanation. 

A recent study has shown that peak Internet usage in North America occurs around 11 p.m., representing a significant shift from previous years in which Internet traffic peaked during the daytime.

According to the study conducted by Internet security firm Arbor Networks, another smaller peak was detected around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, as kids are getting home from school and adults are winding down their day at the office.

As people head home for the evening, however, Internet traffic takes a sharp dip before picking up again in the evening.  Around 8 p.m. Eastern time activity starts to rise again, climbing steadily until roughly 11 p.m., but remaining remarkably heavy until well after midnight. 

The study noted that there are as many Americans and Canadians surfing the Web at 2 a.m. as there are 9 a.m. the next morning.

While the West Coast is three hours behind the East Coast “” making it just 8 p.m. in L.A. during the 11 p.m. Internet rush hour in New York and Boston “” analysts from Arbor point to the fact that roughly 75 percent of Americans live in the Eastern and Central time zones.  Thus, even accounting for the time differential, there’s a whole lot of late-night Web surfing going on in North America.

So just what are people doing online at such late hours?

Craig Labovitz of Arbor Networks says that there’s a lot of internet video being watched, particularly on YouTube and pornography websites. 

And online gamers also tend to flock to their PC’s in the evening hours.  While the time between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. has traditionally been Americans’ prime time for turning on the tube, more and more people are turning to a somewhat more social form of entertainment. 

Labovitz noted that a distinct spike in online gaming occurs at exactly 8 p.m., a fact that he attributes to the millions of players who prearrange gaming “dates” with their online buddies to take on ghouls and goblins in virtual worlds such as “World of Warcraft.”  

The study also pointed to the fact that North Americans appear to be on the Web much later than their counterparts across the Atlantic.  European Internet traffic hits its climax around 9 p.m. and then falls dramatically over the next several hours.

Labovitz said that the study only examined 10 weekdays in July and could thus be potentially skewed due to kids who are out of school for the summer vacation and staying up later than usual.  He says that Arbor will continue conducting similar studies in different seasons to determine whether there is a distinguishable change in traffic patterns.

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