Social Networking Dominates U.S. Web Use; Facebook Leads The Way


The likes of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have become so popular, in fact, that social networking represents the fastest growing Internet use segment, the Nielsen report found.

According to Nielsen, U.S. users currently spend 23 percent of their time on the Internet using social networking platforms. That's an increase from 16 percent last year. And Nielsen puts the massive increase in social networking use squarely on the shoulders of Facebook, which just recently reached more than 500 million users to become the most widely used social networking platform globally.

"You can start your daily online experience on Facebook and perform many essential communications functions," Nielsen analyst Dave Martin told Bloomberg BusinessWeek. "In the past, you might have to log into Yahoo Mail and then log into MSN Messenger and then maybe check the Yahoo home page for new, breaking news."

Along with the explosive growth in social networking and social media usage, the Nielsen study also revealed that among users of social networking, 85 percent of social networking use is on Facebook. Facebook users log an average of six hours per month on the site. Meanwhile, Facebook's former foe MySpace places a distant second with a mere 5.6 percent of time spent on social networks. Even micro-blogging wunderkind Twitter can't touch Facebook's presence, with just a 1.1 percent share of social networking use.

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While social networking gathers steam, Nielsen also found that 10 percent of U.S. Internet time is spent playing games, which has now overtaken email as the second most popular online activity. Email dropped 28 percent from 2009 to 2010 and now represents 8.3 percent of online time, according to a San Francisco Chronicle blog post.

Online video also saw an increase, jumping 12 percent to represent 3.9 percent of Web use. That increase shot online video past online search in popularity and frequency.

Further, Web portal usage dropped to 4.4 percent of all Web activity, a 19 percent drop since last year. Instant messaging also felt a lull, dropping 15 percent to represent 4 percent of U.S. Internet usage, the Nielsen study revealed.

In a statement, Martin described U.S. Internet use this way: "Despite the almost unlimited nature of what you can do on the Web, 40 percent of U.S. online time is spent on just three activities - social networking, playing games and e-mailing, leaving a whole lot of other sectors fighting for a declining share of the online pie."