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What’s America doing online?

Games accounted for 10 percent of time spent, while e-mail time dropped from 11.5 percent to 8 percent. The research data also revealed that 50 percent of the surfers spent some time playing games.

Latest research conducted by Nielson Online suggests that Internet surfers in the United States spend close to six hours a month on social-networking sites and blogs.

The report titled 'What Americans Do Online' released late Sunday, describes the changing internet use, as competition in Silicon Valley industry intensifies.

Liked by young as well as the old
In June this year, out of the total time spent online, web users devoted 23 percent to social networking sites, an increase from the 16 percent a year earlier.

The considerable increase in the percentage of time spent on social networking out of the total time spent online underscores the growing popularity of sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook, which has more than 500 million members now, bears testimony to this fact.

"That's the logical conclusion. A platform like Facebook incorporates e-mail and instant messaging. Social networks have incorporated those basic functions in a much larger system of communication, content management and even gaming,” said Martin.

"It's a new way for me to socialize. And I definitely e-mail a lot," claims an avid Facebook user.

The liking for online social networking is not only restricted to the young. In fact, the Neilson research reveals that the number of people aged over 50 who were online was double than that of kids under 18.

The rise of social networks has increased sharing of videos, movies and news and sports articles.

Explaining the trend, Dave Martin, vice president of primary research at Nielsen, said, "Friends and family are endorsing content to others."

"Despite the almost unlimited nature of what you can do on the Web, nearly half of U.S. online time is spent on three activities — social networking, playing games and e-mailing," averred Martin.

Online games topple e-mail
Online games toppled e-mail to become the second most popular activity on the internet. Within the gamut of online games, Zynga's wildly popular FarmVille took the honors.

Games accounted for 10 percent of time spent, while e-mail time dropped from 11.5 percent to 8 percent. The research data also revealed that 50 percent of the surfers spent some time playing games.

Instant messaging with 4 percent was fourth in terms of ranking. The research has however cautioned that it is premature to write off e-mail and instant messaging as online activities.

U.S. consumers, on average, streamed videos or movies for 3 hours, 15 minutes in June. Time spent on conventional portals such as Yahoo has declined.

"That's the logical conclusion. A platform like Facebook incorporates e-mail and instant messaging. Social networks have incorporated those basic functions in a much larger system of communication, content management and even gaming,” said Martin.

“The growth has come at the expense of traditional portals, e-mail platforms and IM," added Martin.