How Facebook overtakes Google to be the top spot on Internet

19:32, March 18, 2010      

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Reports this week suggested that Facebook had overtaken Google. However, the statistics do not give the whole picture.

For the week ending March 13, the social networking site received more traffic than Google in the United States, according to a blog post by industry tracker Hitwise.

While many have cited this data to validate predictions that Facebook will eventually beat the search giant, the social networking startup has yet to pull ahead in any real sense.

For the first full week, more Americans typed "Facebook.com" into their browser than "Google.com." But these figures account for only a portion of Google's web properties. They don't, for example, measure Gmail or YouTube at all.

Looked at in isolation, YouTube alone was the fifth most visited website during the week ending March 6, according to Hitwise.

Even comparing the use of Google's search site to the overall use of Facebook leads to a false understanding of the way people use Google's search product. Few people enter an entire URL into their browsers. And in terms of Google many rely on boxes already embedded in their web browsers or use Google's search product on another website.

Facebook has certainly grown however. The site's traffic increased 185 percent over the past year while Google's traffic jumped just 9 period during the same period. Facebook is a destination, whereas Google tends to be a launching point for Internet use. It is also fair to say that Facebook has revolutionized communications, almost in the way the telephone did and the telegraph before it. This is something founder Mark Zuckerberg envisioned. As well as creating group communications between several friends, Facebook has also built on direct communications tools such as chat.

Taken together, Facebook and Google (including YouTube, Gmail, and Google Images) accounted for more than 17 percent of Internet activity for the most recent week available, or nearly one web visit in every five. Other social networks are also gaining pace especially the likes of Twitter. Meanwhile others are losing ground such as MySpace.

Facebook has experienced extraordinary growth, and revealed it had more than 400 million users in February. It overtook MySpace for the first time in June 2008. but there are still question over the group's business model as it struggles to turn its huge user base into profits.

Google, on the other hand, generated revenues of 23 billion U.S. dollars last year, mostly through its search advertising business.

Robin Goad, a research director for Experian Hitwise, said, "The growth may be slowing but it is not tailing off."

An indicator of when a site is struggling is when users spend less time on it, he said. "It happened with MySpace. Session times peaked at 25 minutes, when that dropped, it marked when the site began to lose popularity."

Users currently stay on Facebook for 30 minutes a day in Britain, another dominant market. "I don't see a decline. There is no threat to Facebook in the way there was for MySpace," Goad said. "Facebook came along at the right time. It has become the defacto social network, the only one to gain mass market acceptance."

Source: Xinhua
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