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US internet users spent less time online in January 2010 than December 2009, but did more with the time they spent, according to data from The Nielsen Company.

The total number of active US internet users rose 3.8% between December 2009 and January 2010, from 195.7 million to 203.1 million. Those users increased their sessions per person 7.8%, from 51 to 55, and also visited 8.4% more domains, 90 compared to 83. The number of web pages visited per person rose 0.3%, from 2,614 to 2,621.

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However, US internet users were doing more in less time. Monthly PC time per person dropped 8.2%, from 64 hours, nine minutes and 12 seconds to 58 hours, 52 minutes and five seconds. Average duration of a web page dropped 0.2%, but was still measured at 56 seconds after rounding.

Facebook Time Surges among Parent Companies

Looking at January 2010 internet activity for top parent companies/divisions, more unique US internet users visited pages and domains owned by Google, 162.5 million, than owned by any other parent or division. Google’s monthly audience grew 4.4%, but the average amount of time spent per person, two hours, five minutes and 19 seconds, decreased 11.7% on a monthly basis.

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Microsoft was the second-most visited parent company/domain, with 143.9 million unique visitors, a 5.9% increase from December 2009. Microsoft’s average time spent per person also decreased 4.1%, to one hour, 57 minutes and 58 seconds.

Yahoo had the third-highest number of unique visitors, 138.8 million, 6.6% higher than in December 2009. Like Google and Microsoft, Yahoo saw its average time spent per person decrease. The average Yahoo visitor spent two hours, 28 minutes and 33 seconds during January 2010, a significant 15.8% monthly drop.

Facebook had the fourth-highest number of unique visitors, 116.3 million, a 5.8% monthly increase. Where Facebook dominated its rival parent companies was its strong growth in average amount of time spent per person, which increased 9.7% to seven hours, one minute and 41 seconds. No other parent company or division even broke the three-hour mark. All the parent companies and divisions ranked five through 10 by monthly unique visitors lost average time spent on a monthly basis, with number eight Amazon seeing its average time drop 28.4% to a little more than 25 minutes.

Facebook Also Dominates Brands in Time Spent

Facebook was also ranked fourth among individual web brands for January 2010, with the same figures and percentages as it currently has no other independent web domains. As with parent companies and divisions, no other brand broke the three-hour mark for average time spent per person.

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Google came in first among web brands for unique audience with 153.1 million unique visitors, a 4.1% jump from December 2009. Google’s average time spent per person declined 14.4% to one hour, 22 minutes and 26 seconds.

The most notable difference between the top five parent company/division rankings and web brand rankings was the appearance of Google subsidiary YouTube as the fifth-most visited web brand with 99.5 million unique visitors. YouTube’s unique audience increased 7.6%, but average time spent per person dropped 10.3% to one hour, two minutes and 27 seconds. Considering the relatively small spread between Google’s parent company/division unique visitors and brand visitors, it is clear that most YouTube users also use Google.

Other differences between the upper echelons of the top parent companies/divisions and top web brands include Yahoo ranking second among brands, mainly because parent company Microsoft is counted as two brands: third-ranked MSN/WindowsLive/Bing and sixth-ranked Microsoft.

Facebook Popularity on Dramatic Upswing

Research from other firms also shows Facebook’s popularity dramatically increasing in the past year. In January 2010, Facebook drew about 133.6 million unique US visitors, according to compete. This was enough unique visitor traffic to put Facebook ahead of Yahoo, which compete says attracted about 132 million unique US visitors last month. Google retained the top spot it has held since February 2008 with about 140 million unique visitors.

From January to July 2009, Facebook experienced a sharp growth curve, growing from about 68 million to about 122 million unique US visitors, or a roughly 80% increase. From July 2009 to January 2010, Facebook experienced much slower, but fairly steady growth, of about 8%.

In addition, Facebook experienced 105% growth in total visitors during 2009, according to comScore. Figures from comScore indicate Facebook had 112 million visitors in December 2009, compared to 55 million in 2008. Facebook took the number one position among social networks for the first time in May 2009.

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