According to the latest Hitwise analysis, Google's lost its crown as the most-visited Web site in the U.S. last week. The new king of Web site traffic is, of course, Facebook. In the future, technohistorians may marvel at this event.
During the Winter holidays there were a few momentary spikes in traffic which placed Facebook on the top, but if you check out the graph of the long term trend shown above, you can see Facebook's meteoric rise is now on target to meet or beat Google. And if that curve continues on its trajectory, which it may well do for a while (its market share is 185% up over the same week in 2009, for example,) Facebook will become number one by a huge margin, versus the tiddly little 0.04% separation it currently has above Google's 7.03% share of average weekly market share.
Over at Inside Facebook they're pondering if the early-February revamp of Facebook's user landing page is partly responsible, since it emphasizes Top Stories over a real-time stream—which is something users may prefer. But if you peep at Facebook's market share curve, it's not a smooth linear climb, and the gentle oscillations in increasing market share are more probably representative of slight changes in Facebook's popularity or appearance in broadcast media. Besides, it seems that Facebook continues to attract more members, and sees those members interacting more with the site, pretty much no matter what it does to redesign its services.
What can we learn from the fact that people are visiting facebook more than Google? Is Google's core business as a search engine at risk? No. Google search is a tool, and one that's getting smarter day by day—its future business is guaranteed. Facebook does have a search ability inside the site, but what's really driving users to Facebook in droves is that it's a genuine phenomenon. Social networking is still riding that "oh you should try this, it's new and cool" wave and the site itself has reached a critical mass of user numbers whereby if you want to contact almost anyone, odds are that they have a Facebook account.
This doesn't mean that there aren't serious implications though. Facebook is now in a position to leverage those user visits to seize control of the online ad-placement business from Google—advertisers will begin to do the math and work out which site will get their ads in front of more eyeballs. And while Web 2.0 has been with us for a while, the fact that more people are visiting Facebook than Google indicates that this interactive revolution has really changed U.S. Netizen's online habits.
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