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E-mail usage on the Web is down for most people as social media, texting take over

Feel like you're e-mailing less than you were, say, even just a year ago? If so, you certainly aren't alone.

According to a comScore report out today on digital trends in 2010, the use of Web-based e-mail has begun to drop. The culprit? That's easy. People are increasingly shifting to instant messaging, posts on social networks and texting on their mobile phones.

"As communication platforms and devices continue to proliferate, the usage of Web-based e-mail has begun to decline," noted comScore analysts in the report. "Total Web-based e-mail usage declined 8% in the past year, with the most precipitous decline occurring among 12-17 year olds."

That, according to comScore, doesn't bode well for the future of this communication tool. Webmail usage among teenagers, actually dropped 59% in the past year.

Teens aren't alone. There was an 18% decline in usage among 25-to-34-year-olds and an 18% drop among those between 35 and 44 years old, reported comScore. Those who are 45 to 54 years old also saw a 12% drop.

Who's using Web e-mail more than they were a year ago? Older users. According to comScore, usage among 55-to-64-year-olds was up 22% in the past year. And those over the age of 65 saw a 28% increase. Since older people are increasingly getting online, they're apparently trying out e-mail as a new (to them) form of communication.

ComScore monitored two million users world-wide for the past year to accumulate data for its report.

This isn't the first report that e-mail, once the golden child of online communication, has lost some luster.

Last August, a Nielsen Co. survey reported that, in terms of online popularity, e-mail was taking a back seat to both social networking and online gaming.

According to the Nielsen survey, Americans last summer were spending nearly a quarter of their online time posting on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, making that the most popular online activity among Americans.

Online gaming was the second most popular online activity, accounting for 10% of online use. E-mail came in third, with 8.3%.

That's a drop from June 2009, when e-mail was the second-most popular online activity, accounting for 11.5% of Inernet usage.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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