Social networks such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are more popular than email with web users, says Nielsen Online.

A report by the research company revealed that two thirds of surfers use 'Member Communities', the category name it gives social networks and blogs.

Nielsen Online also revealed Member Communities are the fourth most popular online category, being beaten by search, portals and PC software.

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The research highlighted that Facebook was the most popular social network and has its greatest reach in the UK, with 47 percent of all British web users logging on to the social network, while one in every six minutes of UK online time is spent visiting a social network or blog.

Nielsen Online also said that mobile phones are helping increase the popularity of social networks, finding that UK mobile Web users have the greatest propensity to visit a social network through their handset, with 23 percent (2 million people) doing so, compared to 19 percent in the US (10.6 million people). These numbers are a big increase over last year – 249 percent in the UK and 156 percent in the US.

“Social networking has become a fundamental part of the global online experience,” says John Burbank, CEO of Nielsen Online. “While two-thirds of the global online population already accesses member community sites, their vigorous adoption and the migration of time show no signs of slowing. Social networking will continue to alter not just the global online landscape, but the consumer experience at large.”

See also: Facebook gets Twitter-style status feeds