LONDON: The continuing rise of social networks and a "Googopoly" over information distribution are among the main trends currently reshaping the digital universe, a study has argued.

The GlobalWebIndex surveyed between 2,250 and 6,000 web users in each of 27 countries, and found that 59% updated their social network profile at least once a month, increasing from 36% in 2009.

Looking to microblogging, the comparative ratings improved from 13% to 24% in the same period. In contrast, the number of people making regular contributions to forums fell by six percentage points to 38%. Writing blogs remained flat on 27%.

The uptake of interactive activities like using social networks, microblogs, blogging, photo-sharing and uploading video peaked at 84% in China, versus 64% in the UK, 60% in the US and 52% in Germany.

A 59% share of participants had visited a corporate website in the month prior to the poll and 24% had accessed a brand page on a social network. This latter total hit 50% in Indonesia and the Philippines.

Just 13% of interviewees had opted to "follow" a brand on a microblog. An even more modest 9% had retweeted a post from a brand on sites such as Twitter.

A 63% majority of people that had signed up as brand "fans" on social media wanted discounts, 48% did so for customer services reasons and 31% hoped to receive personalised purchase recommendations.

Elsewhere, 59% of the panel had bought something via the web during the month before the survey – climbing to 78% in South Korea and 72% in Germany and the UK – and 53% had reviewed a product online.

The study also suggested a "Googopoly" is emerging, as 85% of netizens utilise Google's search engine, handsets powered by the firm's Android operating system hold 33% of the smartphone market and Google+ is used by 22% of social networkers.

"Never before has one company controlled the distribution of so much information," the study said.

More broadly, some 90% of Americans watched TV for at least an hour per day, falling to 65% in China. However, whereas 27% of US consumers streamed on-demand TV on the web, that amount rose to 53% in China.

Similarly, 40% of the Chinese sample had enjoyed live broadcast material on the web, coming in at 10% in the US. These figures reached 26% and 3% in turn while discussing playing live TV on a mobile.

Overall, the analysis estimated that 662m worldwide logged on to the web through a PC, standing at 255m for mobile phones and 51m for tablets.

Data sourced from the GlobalWebIndex; additional content by Warc staff