Meanwhile, web games have overtaken email usage, analysts say

Explosion in American social networking use

Use of social networking sites has risen dramatically in the US, researchers have found.

Neilsen’s ‘What Americans Do Online’ study measured how much time the surveyed internet users spent on a variety of tasks such as social networking, email, games, instant messaging and web portals.

Social networking rose 43 per cent so that 22.4 per cent of internet time was spent on social networking sites. Web games were the only only gaining category increasing 10 per cent over the same period a year before.

“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 emailing leaving a whole lot of other sectors fighting for a declining share of the online pie,” said Nielsen analyst Dave Martin.

Email, portals and stand alone instant messaging were all down substantially by 28, 19 and 15 per cent respectively. Nielsen said the findings are indicative of a continued trend of personal communications and entertainment moving into social networking environments. The study results also show the ever increasing competition portal operators such as Microsoft and Yahoo are experiencing in the face of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Such is the decline of email that web games have taken over the second most popular online activity after social networking. Much of the games tracked by Nielsen occurs within the boundary of social networking platforms such as Farmville on Facebook. Combined the two activities account for more than a third of total time spent on the Internet according to the findings of the survey.

The Nielsen survey also looked at mobile Internet use and here mobile email access experienced a reverse scenario from the trend seen in desktop computer Internet use. Email continues to dominate mobile Internet and rose from 37 to 42 per cent of the time spent using mobile Internet. 

Music and video was one of the usage categories gaining on mobile Internet use, 20 per cent in the last year and matching the 20 per cent drop in usage of sports, news and current affairs sites for US mobile Internet users.

Image credit: Niesen

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