More than three-quarters of British Internet users regularly visited social networking sites in August, outpacing their peers in Germany, France, Spain and Italy, according to figures from comScore Networks

UK Internet users spent an average of almost six hours during the month visiting sites such as Facebook.com and Bebo.com, comScore said. The top 20% of UK visitors spent 22 hours at the sites.

By contrast, slightly less than half of online users in France and Germany used social networking sites in August. Germans spent an average of 3.1 hours per user on the sites, and the French 2 hours per user.

A higher proportion of Spanish web surfers visited social networking sites – about 61% – but they clocked up an average of only 1.8 hours per month. In Italy, 49% of Internet users visited the sites and spent an average of 1.8 hours there.

Last week comScore said Facebook.com was the fastest growing Internet property in the UK. The site grew 18.3% in August to reach just under 9 million unique visitors.

UK users spend more time on the social networking sites for a couple reasons, said Jamie Gavin, a comScore spokesman. The UK is a mature Internet market, with more and more people using the Internet for reasons other than e-commerce or banking, he said.

Also, most of the major social networking sites were launched first in English, and companies behind those sites have been slow to create local language versions, Gavin said.

The European social networking community stood at 127.3 million unique visitors in August, or 56% of the European online population.

ComScore compiles its data from people aged over 15 who agreed to put monitoring software on their computer that records their surfing habits. About two million users worldwide participate in the programme.

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