While social network use is the single most significant occupier of Americans' online time, a June study indicates that playing games has climbed up to grab the second place spot away from email, which held the runner up position last year.
Social networks alone comprised 22.7 percent of online time in June, up by nearly half from 15.8 percent during the same period last year. They, by far, are responsible for the biggest chunk of online time. That data comes from a new Nielsen Company report on internet habits.
According to Nielsen, gaming was one of the only categories that was not eroded in social networking's wake. Online game time rose 10 percent year-over-year to make up 10.2 percent of Americans' internet use in June, up from 9.3 percent. That's in stark contrast to email, whose use fell 28 percent to 8.3 percent, and instant messaging, whose use fell 15 percent to 4.0 percent -- both likely at least partial casualties of social networking, which is becoming increasingly dominant as a communication tool.
"Despite the almost unlimited nature of what you can do on the web, 40 percent of U.S. online time is spent on just three activities -- social networking, playing games, and emailing -- leaving a whole lot of other sectors fighting for a declining share of the online pie," said Nielsen analyst Dave Martin in an analysis on the tracking company's official blog
The situation looks quite different on mobile devices, however, which tend to feature less fully-fledged online experiences than desktop and laptop browsers. There, a massive 60 percent of online time is spent using email, followed by 11.7 percent on web portals and 10.5 percent on social networks.
Nielsen doesn't list game activity on mobiles; the ambiguous "entertainment" comprises 3.3 percent of online time, and "other" takes up 7.8 percent. This is likely because many mobile games, particularly in the United States, are played offline.