Some 30.8 percent of smartphone users accessed Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites via their mobile browser in January 2010, according to new research from comScore.
That number is an 8.3 point jump from the 22.5 percent figure the researcher tallied one year ago, and is much greater than the 6.8 percent of feature phone users who accessed social networking sites on their mobile phones.
The specific breakdowns, which do not include access of social networks by the 6 million mobile phone owners who do so solely through mobile applications, are even more encouraging for the top social network sites.
Some 25.1 million people accessed Facebook via a mobile Web browser, a growth of 112 percent from January 2009. Twitter use via a mobile browser grew 347 percent to 4.7 million users. MySpace, which Facebook trounces on the desktop by a ratio of 4 to 1 (400 million users to 100 million), lured 11.4 million users.
Mark Donovan, comScore senior vice president of mobile, said Facebook's mobile browser audience surpassed MySpace in February 2009, three months earlier than the Facebook audience exceeded that of MySpace on the desktop-based Web in May 2009.
These statistics cement the notion that social networking from the smartphone is here to stay, as Donovan noted:
""Social media is a natural sweet spot for mobile since mobile devices are at the center of how people communicate with their circle of friends, whether by phone, text, e-mail, or, increasingly, accessing social networking sites via a mobile browser.""
The propulsion of browser-based social networking activity is an encouraging sign for the future of mobile cloud computing and companies that are betting on it. Internet players such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and others expect to take advantage of users' growing appetite for accessing Web applications from smartphones.
Apple's iPhone 3GS and Google Android devices such as the Motorola Droid and Nexus One make it easier for users to access applications they would normally only be comfortable using from their PCs and Macs.
Not only are users no longer tethered to their desktops, but their smartphones need not necessarily be loaded up with downloaded apps that take up valuable real estate.
Google, Facebook, Twitter and location-focused startups such as Foursquare, Loopt and Gowalla are also blending social networking with location. The companies believe marrying location and social networking will provide a powerful mechanism for delivering targeted advertisements to users on the go.
Google, for example, just secured a patent for location-based advertising, which specifies the use of location for "targeting, setting a minimum price bid for an ad, offering performance analytics and modifying the content of an ad."