Social network usage passed email in February, according to Nielsen. Social networking sites had a global reach of 68.4 percent that month, compared to email’s reach of 64.8 percent. In a three-month period from December 2008 to February 2009, social networking sites grew 1.6 percent, while email reach actually declined 0.3 percent. One of the key drivers to social media reach was mobile. Mobile social networking nearly tripled in 2008. The report also gives hard figures on another trend which, like mobile, is based less on sociological whims than it is on the price of the technology needed to participate: the growing number of users of long-form video sites like Hulu.

The amount of video minutes watched grew 71 percent, as the average length of viewed videos increased. Users are watching 27 percent more streams, and the average length has jumped almost half a minute, from an average of two minutes per video in February 2008 to 2.43 in February 2009.

Average daily video viewing is six minutes per user.

Sectors like video and mobile internet are dependent on technology that is still cost prohibitive for many, but the decreasing costs of the technology behind them – like the newly rumored $20 monthly AT&T iPhone plan – the digital divide will continue to thin.

“Around the globe the online population is looking more and more like the overall population meaning that in a few short years, online access has moved from being a luxury or something cool to an essential, basic requirement,” wrote the report’s author, Charles Buchwalter, Nielsen senior vice president of research and analytics.

By Mark Alvarez