UK internet traffic to Twitter, the "micro-blogging" service and social network, has increased tenfold over the past 12 months. Last week US Twitter traffic even surpassed that of social news site Digg.
According to online competitive intelligence service Hitwise, for the week ending 17 January 2009, Twitter.com ranked as the 291st most visited website in the UK, up from a ranking of 2,953th for the week ending 19 January 2008. UK Internet traffic to the website has increased by 974 percent over this period.
"Twitter was one of the fastest growing websites in the UK last year, and it shows no signs of slowing down," commented Robin Goad, Director of research for Hitwise in the UK.
"If anything, the service is even more popular than our numbers imply, as we are only measuring traffic to the main Twitter website.
If the people accessing their Twitter accounts via mobile phones and third party applications (such as Twitterrific, Twitterfeed and Tweetdeck) were included, the numbers could be even higher. Many people seem to find Twitter addictive: the average amount of time that people spend on Twitter.com has more than trebled from less than 10 minutes a year ago to half an hour now."
Twitter more popular in UK than Twitter receives the largest amount of its traffic from the USA, but its penetration is greater in the UK market. For the week ending 17 January 2009, www.twitter.com ranked as the 291st most visited website in the UK, accounting for 0.024 percent of all Internet visits; while in the US it ranked 350th, picking up 0.020 percent of all Internet visits.
"In Britain Twitter is still most popular with younger users in urban areas, but its appeal is broadening as it grows," commented Goad.
"The fastest growing age group of users is 35-44 year olds, who now account for 17.3 percent of UK visitors to www.twitter.com."
Twitter aids social network growth Twitter is becoming an important source of Internet traffic for many sites, and the amount of traffic it sends to other websites has increased 30-fold over the past 12 months.
Almost 10 percent of Twitter's downstream traffic goes to News and Media websites, and BBC News is currently the seventh most popular site visited after www.twitter.com. A further 17.6 percent of traffic goes to entertainment websites, while 14.6 percent goes to social networks, 6.6 percent to blogs and 4.5 percent to online retailers.
"As a source of traffic Twitter is still in its infancy, but it is becoming more important every day," commented Goad.
"A number of news sites, blogs, and video and picture websites already rely on Twitter for a significant amount of their traffic."
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The most popular website visited after Twitter is Facebook. Britain's most popular social network continues to pick up users and is now the second most visited website in the UK after Google UK.
On Christmas Day Facebook received one in every 22 UK Internet visits, and its growth helped Hitwise's Social Networking and Forums category account for 10.1 percent of all UK Internet visits during December - the first time that the industry has passed the 10% threshold. Twitter is also included in the category, and currently ranks 23rd.
Over the last few weeks, a number of famous Twitter fans have helped boost the site's UK profile. Stephen Fry (twitter.com/stephenfry) has over 50,000 followers, John Cleese (twitter.com/JohnCleese) claims more than 30,000, and 2,000 people are following Andy Murray's progress at the Australian Open (twitter.com/andy_murray).
Jonathan Ross (twitter.com/Wossy, 13,000+ followers) has used the service to communicate with fans during his three-month suspension from the BBC. The comedian has used his show business contacts to validate celebrity Twitter accounts, and is currently operating under the moniker "Number One Twitter Detective".
The most followed Twitter user is new American President Barack Obama (twitter.com/BarackObama), who has over 140,000 followers.
Twitter beats Digg
Twitter's market share of traffic surpassed that of Digg last week for the first time, according to Hitwise. The US Airways plane crash in the Hudson river sparked a surge of posts and updates.