Social networking overtakes email

Social networking is now the most popular web activity, surpassing even email, according to a new study issued by Nielsen.

Active reach in what Nielsen defines as "member communities" now exceeds email participation by 67% to 65%, the firm reports - among all internet users worldwide, two-thirds visited a social networking site in 2008.

Facebook leads the pack. Three out of every 10 web users visit the site at least once a month, and in all, Facebook experienced a 168% increase in users in 2008, galvanized by growth among the 35-to-49 demographic.

Mobile social networking is most popular in the UK, where 23% of mobile web users (about 2 million subscribers) now visit social networks via handsets - the US follows at 19%, or 10.6 million subscribers. Mobile social networking usage increased 249% in the UK in 2008, and grew 156% in the US.

Nielsen notes that the most popular social networks via PCs and laptops mirror the most popular services on the mobile web - Facebook is the most popular in five of the six countries where Nielsen measures mobile activity, with Xing proving most popular in Germany.

In addition to the mobile web and dedicated mobile social networking applications, users are also interacting with their social networks via SMS - according to Nielsen, at the end of 2008 almost 3 million US users were texting Facebook on a regular basis.

For more on social networking's growth:
- read this Nielsen