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Podcasting, Phishing, RSS Still Gibberish To Most

A survey about Internet terms finds that most Americans are not on the cutting edge of technology, except when it comes to security. Spyware, firewalls, cookies and adware are understood by most.
Americans know spam when they see it, but they don't know jack about phishing, according to a survey on Internet terms.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project (PIP) found that most Internet users haven't a clue about some of the big buzzwords bandied about by the media and technophiles, including "podcasting," and "RSS."

Not surprising, said the survey report's author, Lee Rainie, the director of PIP.

[This is] another reminder that new and exciting technology developments that seize the interest of industry officials and journalists such as podcasting and RSS feeds usually take a while to register in the wider public," said Rainie in a statement.

In the nationwide telephone survey run from early May to June, PIP found that 88 percent of Americans "have a good idea" of what spam means. As they should, what with the percentage of e-mail identified as spam at nearly that high of a mark. Only 3 percent had never heard of spam.

Other terms that a majority of American Net users know, said Pew, include firewall, spyware, Internet cookies, and adware, which were familiar to 78, 78, 68, and 52 percent of those polled, respectively.

There's a common thread through all these terms: security.

But not every Web security term or threat is identifiable by most Americans, Pew found. Only 29 percent said they knew what "phishing" meant. (Fifty-five percent said "not really sure," so perhaps they had some idea.)

"It's clear that public awareness of emerging online threats like those posed by phishing scams takes a while to emerge," said Rainie.

Other terms fared even more poorly. Just 13 percent had a clue about podcasting, while a measly 9 percent said they knew what RSS was all about. About one in four of those polled said they'd never even heard of podcasting or RSS. So much for Apple's iPod push into podcasting.

Generally, men were more likely to know the terms than women -- 36 percent of men knew "phishing," for instance, while only 23 percent of women did -- and younger users are more in tune with terms than older surfers. More than half of those in the 18-29 age bracket, for example, were familiar with "adware," but only 31 percent of those 65 and older knew it.