People are spending more time on the Internet-searching more, shopping more and perhaps even working more online.
ComScore Nov. 6 said some 27 billion hours were spent on the Internet by 1.2 billion worldwide Internet users in September 2009, or 24 percent more than the 21.7 billion total hours people spent in September 2008.
The researcher's figures count Web users aged 15 and older and exclude Web patronage from public computers such as Internet cafes or access from mobile phones or PDAs.
Microsoft commanded the greatest amount of time spent online, grabbing 14.5 percent (3.9 billion hours) of the total minutes users spent online worldwide for September, according to comScore. Google came in at No. 2, with 9.3 percent of the minutes (2.5 billion hours).
This may seem counterintuitive at first blush. Google is the overwhelming leader in search, with people performing millions of queries on it daily from all over the world. The conventional wisdom dictates that Google might lead in time spent.
But search is more of a hit-and-run activity, with users flocking to Google, executing a query and getting rapidly redirected elsewhere. Destination sites with content, such as videos, games or other activities tend to consume most of the time people spend on Websites. Case in point: Nearly half of the 2.5 billion hours users spent on Google in September were logged on the company's YouTube video-sharing site.
Microsoft doesn't have a video portal, so where did users spend the bulk of their time? In Microsoft's case, the Windows Live Messenger instant messaging application accounted for nearly 70 percent of time spent on Microsoft sites for September.
That means users spent roughly 3 billion of the 4 billion hours logged on Microsoft using Windows Messenger. Perhaps users substituted that mode of real-time communication for cell phone use.
People spent more time on Windows Messenger than even the MSN portal, which was revamped Nov. 4 with less clutter. The new MSN page also includes multiple search bars powered by Microsoft Bing's search engine, as well as Facebook and Twitter feeds.
Yahoo was third with 6.3 percent of the minutes, or 1.7 billion hours, but dropped by 14 percent from its September 2008 share of almost 2 billion hours. Facebook nabbed the fourth spot, with 5 percent of the minutes, or 1.4 billion hours.
Worldwide time spent on Facebook was up 193 percent from 2008, which mirrors the social network's 194 percent growth in September U.S. visits from September 2008. Facebook in 2009 soared over the 300 million-member mark, making it easily the largest social network.
With the exception of Yahoo, AOL, Fox and Baidu, time spent online was up across the top 10 properties from September 2008 to September 2009.
To what can we attribute the growth in time spent online? ComScore Media Metrix Executive Vice President Jack Flanagan said in a statement that with the U.S. economy emerging from a recession, many multinational corporations are leveraging the Internet as part of their growth strategies.
Readers can see comScore's charts, including metrics for time spent on the top global properties by continental region, here.