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October traffic to the top 25 social networks, such as Facebook, Bebo and MySpace, accounted for 5.17% of all UK internet visits, compared with 4.98% for the “Computers and Internet – Email Services” category, such as Hotmail, Yahoo Mail and Gmail, according to Hitwise (via ResearchRecap).

That marks the first time that UK internet visits to social networks outnumber visits to web-based email services, Hitwise UK Research Director Robin Goad writes.

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“A growing proportion of the UK online population is choosing to communicate with friends via social networks rather than email,” he adds.

Moreover, social networks now send as much traffic to retail websites as do web email sites, according to Hitwise data:

hitwise-uk-traffic-to-sent-to-retail-sites-by-social-networks-web-email-oct-2007.gif

Younger internet users – those age 18 to 34 – tend to visit social-network sites more than they do web email sites, whereas the reverse is true for those 35+, Goad writes.

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