NEW YORK: Social networks are continuing to rise in popularity among internet users in the US, according to a new study.

Nielsen, the research firm, has estimated that American consumers devoted a collective 906m hours to sites like Facebook and Twitter, as well as to reading blogs, in June 2010.

This equated to 22.7% of all time spent on the net during the month, a figure that had expanded from just 15.8% in June 2009.

Email was one of the primary losers as a result of this trend, with its share decreasing by 2.2%, to 8.3% or 329m hours, in this period.

Instant messaging also recorded a drop from 4.7% to 4.0%, or 160m hours, suggesting the way people choose to communicate on the web may be undergoing a fundamental shift.

Elsewhere, gaming is now responsible for 10.2% of total online minutage, or 407m hours, compared with 9.3% in June 2009.

Videos and movies were the only other category to deliver meaningful growth, with viewers spending 156m hours watching clips, TV shows and films.

"Despite the almost unlimited nature of what you can do on the web, 40% of US online time is spent on just three activities: social networking, playing games and emailing," Dave Martin, an analyst at Nielsen, said.

"A whole lot of other sectors [are] fighting for a declining share of the online pie."

Within the mobile web, email cemented its dominance after increasing its share from 37.4% to 41.6% year-on-year.

The number of people accessing social networks via this channel also climbed by 28%, leaving this activity on 10.5%, behind portals on 11.6%.

Listening to music and streaming video while on the move both generated improvements in uptake, while news, current affairs and sports services registered contractions.

"Although we see similar characteristics amongst PC and mobile internet use, the way their activity is allocated is still pretty contrasting," said Martin.

"While convergence will continue, the unique characteristics of computers and mobiles, both in their features and when and where they are used mean that mobile internet behavior mirroring its PC counterpart is still some way off."

Data sourced from Nielsen; additional content by Warc staff