Boston jumped 12 places to No. 4 in this year's survey, published in the May edition of Yahoo! Internet Life magazine. Salt Lake City jumped 23 places to sixth, though the magazine said it could be a one-time spike caused by the recent Winter Olympics.
San Francisco, San Jose, Calif., and Austin, Texas, stayed in the top three spots, which they've held in all but one of the five surveys. Seattle was no. 5.
Don Willmott, the magazine's technology editor, said the biggest news may be the fact that numbers were up almost everywhere, despite the recession. It took a score of 36 out of 40 to win this year, up from 33.3.
"Everyone's getting better," Willmott said.
The magazine uses a formula that measures more than just Internet use and high-tech jobs to get a sense of which communities make the most of the Web. Willmott said that analysis includes basic stats, the extent to which businesses are online and how sophisticated the users are.
"We measure that by how often they shop and how many have gotten fast access," he said.
The formula also includes an evaluation of content available in the area, including a ranking of how well local government uses the Net. That helped give Boston a boost.
"It really is one of the best city Web sites," Willmott said of cityofboston.gov.
Top-ranked San Francisco has the highest percentage of households using the Net (78.8), is No. 2 in online spending per user ($356) and in domains per 1,000 firms (4,163), and sixth in broadband use and interest (54.9 percent). The data is compiled from Forrester Research and Matthew Zook of the Internet Geography Project.
The magazine ranks 86 metropolitan areas. Seven of the top 21 areas are in California. The bottom three this year were Tulsa, Okla., Scranton, Pa. and Gary, Ind.
By Justin Pope