The article presents a theoretical framework for research on digital inequality and an empirical analysis of information retrieval skills on the Internet. Digital inequality is described as a phenomenon emerging from both media and social change, within a frame of a structural connection between reflexive modernity and disparities coming from information and communication consumption. Data is presented from an experimental survey that tested factual abilities in information retrieval activities, observed in laboratory Internet navigation sessions. In particular, the influence of gender and education level is analysed. On the basis of the Van Dijk model of digital skills dimensions, relevant influences of the two social variables are identified at the level of substantial information skills, and not at the level of formal information skills, controlling for age and experience.