Another milestone for all-conquering social networking site Facebook: last week it managed to usurp Google to become the most-visited site in the US. According to research firm Hitwise, Facebook.com accounted for 7.07% of web traffic, compared to 7.03% for Google.com. Now this stat doesn’t tell the whole story – not least because it doesn’t incorporate other ways people use Google. But the rapid rate of Facebook’s rise does seem to suggest a shift in the way we’re using the internet – rather than using it to search for content, we’re more interested in socialising and following our friends’ recommendations. Which means Google’s domination might finally be under threat…
Now this figure doesn’t actually mean Facebook has overtaken Google yet. Nowadays many of us don’t search from Google.com; we’re just as likely to use our national homepage, or a Google toolbar, or even a Google search on another site (now widespread). And then there’s all Google’s other properties, like Gmail, YouTube and Google Maps. In fact if you take all these into account, says Hitwise, Google is actually still quite far ahead of Facebook, accounting for 11.03% of US website visits last week. In fact, the latter is even shunted out of second place by Yahoo!’s various properties. Equally, here in Britain, Facebook is still lagging some way behind Google’s UK homepage, accounting for 6.01% of website visits compared to Google.co.uk’s 9.34%.
Nonetheless, there’s no denying Facebook’s stratospheric growth: this time last year, it was only responsible for about 2% of US web traffic. And its growth continues to outpace that of the world’s top search engine: Hitwise said that the market share of Facebook.com increased by 185% lately, while visits to Google.com were up only 9% in the same period. The site’s meteoric rise has been helped in no small part by the increasing popularity of its online games, but there’s also clearly a broader trend: the web is now seen as a place to socialise and collaborate, not just as a resource base of searchable information. Hence why Google has been trying to carve out slice of the social networking pie with the recent launch of ‘Buzz’ – albeit to a lukewarm reception.
Better still for Facebook, it’s even managed to do something many social networks haven’t: make money. Although nothing like as much as Google, it must be said...
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