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As overall UK web usage has dramatically risen, so has its social networking activity, according to data from The Nielsen Company.

Social Networking Accounts for 23% of UK Web Time
In April 2010, social networking and blogs accounted for 23% of UK internet time, or 13 minutes and 36 seconds of every online hour, according to the UK Online Measurement Company (UKOM), a division of Nielsen. This is up 159% from the 8.8% of UK internet time represented by social networking and blogs in April 2007.

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Social networking and blogs has become the largest specific use of UK internet time, with only “other” taking up more time (36.8%, or 22 minutes and six seconds of every online hour). Following social networking and blogs are personal (non-work) email (56 million hours / 7.2% share of time) and online games (53 million hours / 6.9% share).

Email Gains, IM Falls Back
The biggest casualty of the rise in social networking is instant messaging (IM) which, three years ago, was the most heavily used sector but has since dropped below email and online games. IM’s share of UK internet time has fallen from 14% to 5%, a relative drop of 66%. In contrast, personal email, which many predicted to be another casualty of the social networking phenomenon, has actually increased its share of online time from 6.5% to 7.2%, a relative rise of 11%.

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“Despite the large increase in the amount of time people spend online and the increasing proliferation of websites and online services, one thing has remained constant and that is the bulk of time accounted for by communicating, networking and playing games,” said Alex Burmaster, VP of global communications for Nielsen’s Online division. “These are the pillars on which the internet as a heavily used medium is built.”

UK Web Users Spend Almost 7 Hrs on SocNets
On average, global web users across 10 countries spent roughly five and a half hours on social networks in February 2010, up more than two hours from February 2009, according to previous research from The Nielsen Company. Web users in the UK spent an average of just less than six hours, 50 minutes, and 56 seconds, enough to be ranked fourth overall behind web users in Italy, Australia and the US.

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