The technology industry thrives on its ability to sell new products to consumers at an ever-increasing pace, and it has turned many upgrades into painless, one-click operations. But millions of users of nearly every type of Internet service and technology, from Netscape and AOL dial-up to old e-mail systems, still prefer to ignore the pitches and sit still — or at least move ahead at their own pace.
Mr. Uribe, a professed late adopter, is one of them. He still has dial-up Internet access at home and he does not lust after the latest tech gadgets. He is content with his aging Dell computer, which he said has an absurdly small amount of memory.
He is hardly alone. Netscape users accounted for 0.14 percent of the Internet population in February, according to OneStat.com, which offers Web monitoring services. That is a tiny fraction of the market, but still represents more than a million users, many who use aging versions of Netscape.
Meanwhile, more than nine million people still pay $10 to $25 for AOL’s dial-up service when faster broadband service is available in most parts of the country, often at comparable prices. Dial-up is a rapidly declining business, but it is not an insignificant one. After all, it accounted for most of AOL’s $5.2 billion in revenue last year.
Yahooupdated its popular Web e-mail service last year, but tens of millions of its customers stuck with the company’s “classic” e-mail. And on the Well, a pioneering online community founded in 1985, hundreds of people communicate using an archaic text-only system, even though a Web-based graphical interface has been available for years.
“Every other online conversational space has a toolbar where you can plug in your favorite winking face,” said David Gans, a musician and radio host, who has been a member of the Well for 22 years. Mr. Gans says he uses the Well’s text interface, in part, because it helps to keep the quality of conversations high.
“Just because you can have a nuclear-powered thing that can dry your clothes in five minutes doesn’t mean there isn’t value to hanging your clothes in the backyard and talking to your neighbor while doing it,” Mr. Gans said.
New, of course, is not always better, and people hang on to existing technologies for a variety of reasons, including loyalty, satisfaction with what they have, fear of time-consuming upgrades and even inertia.
In the age of Facebook, blogs and micro-blogging services like Twitter, these are forces that technology companies need to understand and address as they bet their fortunes on their ability to market a nearly continuous stream of new products and upgrades.
Experts say that late adopters, or technology laggards, are not necessarily Luddites and can play a pivotal role in keeping the beat of innovation.
“Laggards have a bad rap, but they are crucial in pacing the nature of change,” said Paul Saffo, a technology forecaster in Silicon Valley. “Innovation requires the push of early adopters and the pull of laypeople asking whether something really works. If this was a world in which only early adopters got to choose, we’d all be using CB radios and quadraphonic stereo.”
Mr. Saffo said that aspects of the laggard and early adopter co-exist in most people. They may buy the latest digital camera, but end up using only a fraction of its features, or they may proudly tote an iPhone but still pay their bills by check, rather than online.
At 81, Jerry Gropp, an architect in the Seattle area, is a bit of both. He has a high-speed Internet connection through Comcast and Web e-mail accounts with Yahoo and Hotmail. But he still pays AOL for its dial-up service, largely because the desktop e-mail software packaged with it makes it easier to include maps, photographs and notes in the body of messages, rather than as attachments.
“I’ve been on this for about 20 years,” he said about AOL’s service. “In some ways, the old may be the best, combined with the new.”