The latest study from the Nielsen company shows that social networking is becoming the number one activity on the Web in terms of time spent, averaging five-and-a-half hours per user per month in December 2009. It's 82% more time than one year ago and is still growing. It's interesting to note that the other biggest time-consuming activities on the web are blogs, IM and online gaming: these are all about connections between people. The growth of status updating (as 33% of social network users already update their status at least one time a week according to Forrester's latest study) with Facebook and Twitter as stars will create a new web within the World Wide Web. Two examples to confirm this evolution: the experiment "Behind closed doors on the Net," led by French-Canadian radio journalists, should conclude the same thing: even if it's not perfect, the new kind of interaction and sharing provided by social networking makes sense and can become a new level of knowledge and comprehension of the world. The second example is the latest moves by the two big players in search, Google and Microsoft, which signed agreements with Twitter and/or Facebook to integrate the feeds in their results and make money out of this new kind of data.

As always in a new world, the rules are not clear and every change is subject to controversy (see the last update of Facebook privacy rules in December 2009). The pioneers have to determine the rules of survival. But the mash-up between social networking and the fast-growing adoption of the mobile internet (see the latest study from IDC) will place social networking users at the head of this new era of interactions, putting the old, static Web 1.0 far behind.

By Matthieu Soulé