More people visit social networking sites or blogs than use web-based email, according to a new study by Nielsen Online.
The media bean counter claims over two-thirds of the world's population frequent what it calls "member communities," which includes both social network and blogging sites. Member communities make up the fourth most popular category, overtaking email as the world's most common online activity after search, general interest portals, and PC software applications.
Nielsen said that between December 2007 and December 2008, social networking and blogging sites combined reached 66.8 per cent of the world's online population. These sites account for one in every 11 minutes spent online worldwide, according to the firm's research.
In the UK, social sites account for one in every six minutes the average internet user spends online. Nielsen also found that UK users have the highest tendency to visit a social networking site on a mobile handset, trailed by US and French audiences. The number of UK mobile social networkers is up more than three-fold over Nielsen's count last year.
Conspicuously absent from the list of online activities: pornography. As usual, Nielsen doesn't share how it arrives at its numbers, so we're left to guess whether porn is actually less popular than web email, or perhaps folks just don't view porn when being tracked by Nielsen.
Facebook takes the crown
Facebook is the most popular of the social networking sites globally, dominating the segment in the UK, Italy, Australia, France, Spain and Switzerland.
Facebook's greatest reach is in the UK, with 47 per cent of Britons online using the site, the study claims. Facebook's stake of users is also greater in both Italy (44 per cent) and Australia (38 per cent) than in its native US (33 per cent.)
Interestingly, the fastest growing demographic of Facebook users are those aged 35 to 49 years old (more than 24.1 million users). The site also has almost twice as many visitors between 50 to 64 years old (+13.6 million) compared to those under 18 years old (+7.3 million).
With age, apparently comes a greater attention span. Of the social segment, Nielsen says that Facebook has the highest average time viewing per person than any other site (three hours 10 minutes).
A copy of the Nielsen report is available here (PDF) ®