Social Networking and Games Leap in Web Use

Portal schmortal. U.S. Internet users are spending more Web time with social networking sites and games and less with e-mail and traditional portals, Nielsen says.

In June Web users devoted 23 percent of their time online to social networking sites, up from 16 percent a year earlier, thanks largely to Facebook, according to Nielsen research released Monday. Online games, propelled by social applications such as Zynga's FarmVille, rose to 10 percent, taking the No. 2 position previously held by e-mail use.

Social networking sites are changing how people communicate and find information online as fewer users go to portals run by companies such as Yahoo! (YHOO) and Microsoft (MSFT), says Dave Martin, a Nielsen analyst. While they still want to message colleagues or check headlines, they're more likely to do so in a social environment, with people they know online.

Mobile: kinder to e-mail and portals

"You can start your daily online experience on Facebook and perform many essential communications functions," Martin said. "In the past, you might have to log into Yahoo Mail and then log into MSN Messenger and then maybe check the Yahoo home page for new, breaking news."

Internet users spent 4.4 percent of their time online on portals in June, down from 5.5 percent a year earlier, Nielsen said. E-mail time declined to 8.3 percent, from 12 percent. Portals and e-mail performed better on mobile devices. E-mail represented 42 percent of time spent in May, up from 37 percent a year earlier, and was the most-used function. Portals were No. 2, with 12 percent.

Apart from social networking and online games, the only major service to increase its portion of user time in June was the streaming of videos and movies, which rose to 3.9 percent, from 3.5 percent. Time spent searching the Web changed little.

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