When you think cyber-savvy cities, the wired streets of San Francisco no doubt leap to mind. Or perhaps San Jose, the birthplace of Silicon Valley.
But don't forget Baltimore.
That's right -- we have seen the geeks and they are us. A new survey of the nation's metropolitan areas named Baltimore the 20th most plugged-in city in the country as it surged ahead of larger cities such as Philadelphia, Houston and Los Angeles. The survey appears in the March issue of Yahoo! Internet Life, which hit newsstands last week.
Of course, the familiar front-runners are still there. San Francisco topped the list for the second year running, followed by Austin, Texas; Seattle, Washington, and Boston. San Jose, believe it or not, slipped to 6th place.
But Baltimore's strong showing wasn't the only surprise among this year's result. Other cities not traditionally associated with the digital revolution, such as Nashville, Tenn., and Phoenix, also turned out to be more wired than many people thought.
"When people think about the Internet they instantly think San Francisco or San Jose," said Yahoo! executive editor Ben Greenman. " Less commonly thought of are cities like Minneapolis, Baltimore, and Austin -- places that in many ways are really leading the charge."
To compile their list, Yahoo! editors ranked metropolitan areas with a million or more residents based on the number of people logging on at home and at work, number of businesses that own Internet domain names, number of computers connected to the Internet, and number and quality of local Web sites.
Baltimore edged larger rivals thanks to a large number of home Internet users. About 21.7 percent of area adults log on from home, enough to rank the city 7th in domestic surfing. Austin, home to Dell Computers and other high-tech firms, topped this category with 32.4 percent, followed by San Jose, Denver, Nashville, Oakland and Washington. Baltimore also stood out for the quality and number of government, media and cultural Web sites in the metropolitan area, Greenman said.
The city scored lower on the number of wired businesses and people logging on from work. San Jose had the highest number of adults who use the Internet at work (37.9 percent), followed by Washington, Austin, Oakland and San Francisco. Baltimore's showing didn't take everybody by surprise.
Scott Allison, general manager of Comcast Online, says the area's high level of computer use was one reason the Philadelphia-based company decided to launch its high speed @Home cable Internet service here first.
Erik Monti, president of Charm Net, one of the city's pioneering Internet service providers, noted that Baltimore is also close to the birthplace of the Internet, which was developed by the Defense Department in the late 1960s.
"It's somewhat funny and ironic that Baltimore hasn't been noticed yet," Monti said. But down the road, none of this may matter, said Yahoo's Greenman: Twenty years from now, asking which cities are the most wired will be like asking which cities have the greatest presence of televisions. It will be a non-question.
Top 25 wired cities
1. San Francisco
2. Austin, Tex
4. Washington, D.C. 5. Boston
6. San Jose, Calif.
7. San Diego
8. Minneapolis -- St. Paul, Minn.
10. Dallas -- Fort Worth, Texas
12. Sacramento, Calif.
13. Orange County, Calif.
15. Portland, Ore.
16. New York
17. Nashville, Tenn.
18. Raleigh-Durham, N.C.
19. Phoenix, Ariz.
22. Oakland, CA.
24. Los Angeles
25. Salt Lake City