updated 5/31/2011 9:18:46 PM ET 2011-06-01T01:18:46

After years of modest use, online phone calling seems to have finally started taking off as a way to stay in touch with others.

A new study from Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project finds that 5 percent of adult Internet users in the United States are making phone calls online every day, and that nearly five times that number have made at least one online call at some point.

The finding comes on the heels of the announcement that popular Web calling service Skype was recently purchased by Microsoft for $8.5 billion.

A Pew report in February 2007 showed only 2 percent of adult Web users were daily online callers. The new study attributes the increase to the availability of free or cheap Web calling services on smartphones and tablet computers, as well as the increase in meetings and classroom activities using online phone connections.

"The percentage of American Internet users who have placed phone calls online [now 24 percent] is now about the same as the percent who were aware in 2004 that it was possible to use the Internet for phone calling," Pew report said.

The report also said that Internet users who live in urban and suburban areas are more likely than rural residents to use the Internet this way.

Younger Internet users are more likely to place online calls than older users.

Reach TechNewsDaily senior writer Samantha Murphy at Follow her on Twitter @SamMurphy_TMN

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