We've come a long way from Friendster, the social network that burst onto the scenes in 2002. Back then, the word "social network" always required some definition as to what exactly it was. The term was unclear and considered Net jargon.
Today, for the first time ever on a global basis, social networks are more popular than email.
With 2/3rds of the global online population on social networks, these community sites are the fourth most popular category, and growing twice as fast as the three larger categories, which includes search, portals, email and PC software, according to a Nielsen report, called "Global Faces and Networked Places."
Additionally, time spent on social networks is growing three times as fast than the overall Internet rate and accounts for 10% of the time spent on the Web.
Facebook is the world's most popular social network, visited by three out of every 10 people online across the nine markets Nielsen tracks.
The report also says that social networks are broadening with regards to demographic. The biggest increase in visitors last year came from 35-49 age group.
Additionally, mobile is playing an increasing role. About 19% of mobile users in the U.S. access social networks on the go. In the UK, about 23% of mobile users log onto social networks from mobile devices. In Brazil, where Google's Orkut has the largest market share, nearly 25% of minutes spent online are spent on these sites.
Germany saw a big increase in activity on social networks and blogs as 51% of the online population now visiting social networks by the end of last year, up from 39% a year prior.
(image source: Miamidolphins)