Internet users are taking avidly to sites that let them label photos, movies and blogs with their own descriptive tags, providing a major new way of organizing information online, according to a survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
The December survey, released Wednesday, found that 28 percent of Internet users have tagged content, and 7 percent have done so on a typical day.
Tagging is used to organize photos on Yahoo Inc.’s Flickr, Web site bookmarks on Yahoo’s del.icio.us and video on Google Inc.’s YouTube. Google’s Gmail e-mail service also uses a form of tagging, although its “labels” are for personal rather than group organizing.
With tagging, a YouTube video of a python attacking rabbit gets tags that include “python, snake, rabbit, reptile, eat, devour, food, chain,” helping to guide people who search the site looking for any of those things.
The people most likely to be taggers are typical early adopters, the survey found: They are under age 40, use broadband Internet connections and have above-average income and education.
It was the first time Pew asked about tagging, so it couldn’t to say how fast the phenomenon as a whole is growing.
In commentary accompanying the survey results, David Weinberger, a fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, contrasts the use of tagging to older methods of organizing information, like the Dewey Decimal system used in libraries.
The Dewey system is a hierarchal system in which each book belongs only to one category, while tagging lets users organize things in multiple categories that are useful to them.
“You may want to tag, say, a Stephen King story as ’horror,’ but maybe to me it’s ’ghost story’ and to a literature professor it’s ’pop culture,”’ Weinberger writes. The beauty of the system is that all those views can co-exist.
The survey polled 2,373 adults Nov. 30 to Dec. 30 by phone, of which 1,623 were Internet users. It had a margin of sampling error of 3 percentage points.