In a major change of the make-up of the web audience, women have become the most active internet users in the UK.

New figures from Nielsen/NetRatings show women aged between 18 and 34 are the most active group of users, accounting for 18 per cent of the internet population.

In fact, 18-34-year-olds are the most prevalent online group, accounting for 32 per cent of all active online Britons.

Women aged 18-34 account for 21 per cent of all time spent on computers by Britons – for every hour UK folk spend on computers, 13 minutes are accounted for by 18-34-year-old women.

“The internet is no longer dominated by young males,” said Alex Burmaster, European internet analyst at Nielsen//NetRatings.

“Times have changed considerably and many will be surprised to see that women aged 18 to 34 are now the most prevalent group online, and that a quarter of the online population is at least 50 years of age."

He observed that companies offering services or destinations online will need to comprehend the changing digital lifestyle.

“Companies who understand this composition when providing services through the web will maximise their chances of success in the internet of the future.”

One in four Britons online is actually 50 years old or older, and there are almost twice as many over-50s online than under-18s.

Men over 50 are responsible for 15 per cent of internet activity, while men aged between 18 and 34 are the third-biggest group at 14 per cent.

Burmaster added: “There's little doubt we are entering a new era of the internet. The results of the research, showing young adult women now account for 27 per cent more of total UK computer time than their male counterparts, indicates how the internet landscape is shifting; a shift which is sure to send shockwaves through the entire online industry.”