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Of the 282.7 million European internet users ages 15+ who went online via a home or work computer in December 2008, 211 million visited a social networking site, representing a penetration of 74.6%, according to data from comScore’s World Metrix.

Of the 16 individual European countries included in the study, the UK (79.8%) and Spain (73.7%) had the highest social-networking penetration. Norway (58.9%) and Austria (49.7%) had the lowest.

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Despite its relatively low penetration rate (63.9%), France’s social networking audience (21.7 million visitors in December) was the third largest in Europe behind the UK (29.3 million visitors) and Germany (24.9 million visitors). Moreover, the total number of French internet users who visited a social networking site in December 2008f is up 45% vs. the previous year.

Facebook Top SocNet Site in France

Facebook.com ranked as the most popular social networking site in France, with 12 million visitors, growing 443% over the past year after launching a French language user interface in February. Skyrock ranked second with 11 million visitors (up 8%), followed by another French site, L’internaute Copains d’Avant, which saw 112% growth throughout the year to reach 5.8 million visitors in December. MySpace Sites (3 million visitors) and Flickr.com (1.8 million visitors) rounded out the top five.

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“2008 was a significant year for social networking in France,” said Mike Read, SVP and managing director of comScore, Europe. “Not only was it a year that saw significant growth, but it was also a period in which Facebook took the category by storm after translating its interface into French early in the year. It will be interesting to see what happens in 2009 as Facebook and native social network, Skyrock, battle for the top position in the French market.”

Online Video Grows in Germany

In related European news, data from comScore Video Metrix shows that 2008 online video viewing in Germany rose 10% over the previous year. In December, the country had 28.5 million online video viewers watching more than 3.4 billion videos.

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This amount of video viewing calculates out to be 118.8 videos per viewer, or approximately four videos per day, comScore said.

YouTube Most Popular Video Site in Germany

In terms of most popular online video sites, Google Sites leads the pack with 51% of all videos viewed, followed by ProSiebenSat1 Sites (1.9%) Universal Music Group (1.7%), and RTL Group Sites (1.0%).

Google also leads in terms of number of viewers. Driven by the popularity of YouTube.com (which accounted for 98% of all videos viewed on the property), Google Sites grew 48% vs. a year ago to further solidify its position as the leading online video viewing property in Germany, attracting 19.4 million viewers in December 2008.

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Universal Music Group had the second-highest number of viewers, with 8.6 million (up 19%), followed by German properties, ProSiebenSat1 Sites and RTL Group Sites, which attracted 6.5 and 4.1 million viewers respectively.

Megavideo.com had the fastest rate of growth among the top ten video properties, growing 1,183 percent to 2.1 million viewers in December, comScore reported.

Other German findings from December 2008:

  • 77.1% of the total German Internet audience viewed online video.
  • The total German online video viewing audience watched a combined 233 million hours of video content.
  • 19.2 million viewers watched 1.7 billion videos on YouTube.com (88 videos per viewer).
  • The average online video duration was 4.1 minutes.
  • 3.9 million mobile phone subscribers, of which nearly half (47%) were younger than 25 years of age, used their phone to watch any kind of TV or video in Germany, according to comScore M: Metrics and based on a three month average ending November 2008.

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