Social networking Web sites like Facebook and MySpace are used by more than two-thirds of the world's population and have passed e-mail as the most popular online activities, Nielsen ratings released Tuesday showed.
Sixty-seven percent of the members in Nielsen research groups regularly visit social networking sites, compared to the 65 percent that frequently use e-mail. Social networking take up 10 percent of users' total online time and are growing at twice the rate of other online ventures.
Facebook overtook MySpace as the top-trafficked networking platform for the first time in the site's history -- three out of every 10 Internet users spend part of their day on Facebook, the study found. In another Facebook first, most of the site's new visitors came from outside the youth demographic -- the site got as many new users between the ages of 50-64 as it did people under 18.
The shift toward social sites shows a dramatic change in the way people are using the Internet to supplement their lives.
"The staggering increase in the amount of time people are spending on these sites is changing the way people spend their time online and has ramifications for how people behave, share and interact within their normal daily lives," the report said.
Changing Internet behaviors could mean advertisers target Web visitors differently, shifting ad revenue in bulk to social sites. The rapid growth of sites like Facebook, the report showed, is currently outpacing advertising's capability to expand online.
The report indicated that the booming social networking industry would only continue to expand in future years.