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Social networking has become such a staple of online activity in the US that, according to Nielsen, internet users spent more time on social networking sites and blogs than doing any other activity in June 2010. Games, which came in second, took up less than half as much time.
On the mobile internet, however, more traditional activities still reign. Email dominated the mobile picture even more strongly than social networking did the desktop: If all time spent on the mobile web was condensed into a single hour, US internet users would have spent 25 minutes in June checking email. Portals would have received another 7 minutes, with social networks not far behind.
Nielsen reported that social networking has been closing the gap in time spent on the mobile internet, gaining share since last year as portals dropped in importance over the same period.
But email remains one of the most popular mobile internet activities not just by time spent but also by penetration. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 34% of all US mobile subscribers used email on their phone in May 2010, compared with 23% who used a social networking site.
comScore also reported mobile email usage via a browser ahead of social networking. That research found search had the highest penetration of any mobile browsing activity, but search is less time-intensive than email or social sites.
Social should continue to make gains in the mobile realm, however. comScore reported it was the fastest-growing mobile internet activity between 2009 and 2010, rising 80% in usage, while email grew more slowly. Bridge Ratings predicted in June that mobile social networking would grow twice as quickly as email during the next 12 months.
The growing penetration of smartphones will be a key factor in increased mobile social networking. According to comScore, 53% of smartphone users participated in social networking activities on the go, compared with just 11% of feature phone owners.
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