In the battle of the social networking sites, it seems that Bebo is best.

According to an independent test carried out by Computing Which? magazine, Bebo is better than rivals Facebook and MySpace for factors including ease of setting up.

The test also looked at ease of use, range of features, and the way the sites protected privacy and security, including how easy it is to remove personal details.

Bebo and Facebook achieved the highest scores of 79% and 74% respectively, and were rated easier to use than MySpace and best for socialising.

Bebo, however, was singled out for its policy towards responsible networking, namely protecting users from data theft and blocing unwanted visitors:

"Users can restrict who sees their information, and block users, and there's plenty of advice on security risks and how to avoid these", said the magazine.

Facebook was praised for its simple interface but the magazine warned that the site had been marked down because its security settings could be confusing. "Our expert felt it was confusing to find out and change who can see what about you", it said. "Plus, it wasn't easy to find out how to permanently delete our account."

The News International-owned site MySpace received an overall score of 67%, while Microsoft's Windows Live Spaces scored 65%, ahead of Friends Reunited site at 62%.

Saga Zone - which is aimed at the over-50s - and BBC Talk were both given a maximum five star rating for their performance, and were also recognised for their discussion groups.

Yahoo Groups received the lowest overall score of the 10 internet sites judged by the magazine. It scored 59% and was described as less sophisticated than some of its rivals. "Yahoo! Groups lacks many of the features people often associate with social networking groups", the magazine said.

In the special interest category, it was photo-sharing site Flickr that came up trumps, scoring five out of five for performance and ease of use.

Abigail Waraker, the editor of Computing Which?, said: "Social networking sites are growing in popularity and, as the success of Bebo in our test shows, sites like MySpace and Facebook can't rest on their laurels if they want to stay in the game. It's also encouraging to see that no matter what age you are or what interests you have, there is a social networking site out there for you".