LONDON: A new report claims the UK has the highest numbers of online social networkers in Europe, and those figures are expected to triple to 27 million within four years.

Market analyst Datamonitor forecasts almost half of all Britons across all age groups will belong to websites such as Facebook or MySpace by 2012, driven by UK consumers' willingness to embrace new technologies.

The ability to socialise from the comfort of one's own PC and a fondness for user-generated content are also factors for strong growth, says Datamonitor.

France is second in the social networking league with 8.9m users, likely to rise to 21.3m by 2012. Germany lies third with 8.6m users, expected to increase to 21.7m by 2012.

Overall the numbers of Europe's social networkers are expected to double to 107.4m by 2012.

Comments Datamonitor analyst Matthew Taylor: "Consumers are creating and joining existing social communities which, if harnessed correctly, can be an important marketing tool.

"The wealth of information stored on online social networks provides many potential benefits for marketers."

Data sourced from Brand Republic (UK); additional content by WARC staff