Its invention has been likened to that of the printing press, electricity or even the wheel but, according to a study, half of Britons who use the internet are lukewarm about it.
Researchers at Oxford University shed light on the speed at which the digital revolution is transforming life, with eight out of 10 people now relying on the internet for everyday activities - up from six out of 10 a decade ago. It also showed that growing numbers of pensioners, the disabled and the less well-off have been getting online in the past two years, while activities such as social networking are no longer the preserve of the young.
However, the study by the Oxford Internet Institute, which has been charting the progress of the digital revolution for a decade, found that one in seven internet users secretly hated it and thought it was invading their privacy and "taking control of their lives".
And almost four out of 10 used it because they had to, but had little enthusiasm for it, meaning that overall 51 per cent have at best moderate feelings about the internet.
Experts said the lack of enthusiasm felt by many could mean we are storing problems for the future, leaving Britain lagging behind countries such as China in the race to innovate. Dr Grant Blank, of the institute, said: "While most of us in Britain are now using the internet, half do it without enthusiasm."
The report, which involved detailed interviews with more than 2,000 people, showed that more and more people are relying on the internet to shop, bank, book holidays or share jokes. But the rise of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter appears to be grinding to halt, with 61 per cent using them - a proportion almost unchanged in two years.
For the first time a majority of middle-aged people were using social networking sites, however. The survey also suggests that pressure is growing on David Cameron to take stronger action to stop children viewing harmful material on the internet.
Amid growing concern about internet pornography and cyber-bullying, support for government controls on what children can view online has risen sharply from two thirds to three quarters.
In July the Prime Minister announced an agreement with internet service providers on new filters that would block access to online pornography unless customers explicitly opted in to view it. He also called upon search engines to block search terms used by paedophiles looking for indecent images, but stopped short of promising legislation.