Social networking sites now reach 82% of the world's internet users, i.e. 1.2 billion people around the world, according to comScore's new 'It’s a Social World' study. In October 2011, social networking accounted for 19% of all time spent online versus 6% in March 2007 -  these figures are slightly different from US-centric research from Nielsen a couple of months ago, but they underline the phenomenal growth of social media - that now represents the most popular activity online. It is also worth noting that according to comScore, both in the US and the UK an astounding 98% of internet users engage in social networking.

Unsurprisingly, this report confirms the leadership of Facebook, now the third largest web property in the world, trailing only Google and Microsoft's sites. In October 2011, Facebook accounted for 75% of all time spent on social networks and 14% of all time spent online. Putting China aside - where the social networking site is still banned - the trend suggests that Facebook could quickly become leader in the few remaining countries where it wasn't until now, like Brazil and Poland...

 
Facebook's growth
 
This report also underlines the emergence of microblogging: Twitter, Tumblr and Sina Weibo respectively grew by 59%, 172 and 181% over the year, representing the strongest growth among the 20 most popular social networks.

Users over 55 now represent the fastest growing segment when it comes to using social networks. In Europe 86% of 55 years+ are present on social networks (95% in the US)

Not surprisingly, the "digital natives" are moving away from emails in favour of social networks: email usage among 15-24 year olds has dropped by 42% over the last year whereas usage of social network grew by 34% in the same time period.

And finally, an interesting focus on the UK and social media: 98% of UK Internet users engage in social media, they spend 18% of their time online, mostly on Facebook (80% penetration) and Twitter (21% penetration).

Update: comScore have released a deck to go along with their report: