One of the primary purposes of Google's Chrome browser is to push what Google does best: search. The address bar has been integrated with the search box—all queries, suggestions, and misspelled URLs go through Google first.
But Chrome is only the latest service to use Google as a middleman. The company has become so synonymous with web browsing that most users see its search box as a replacement for the address bar. Topping the charts for the most searched terms of 2010, according to a new report from Experian Hitwise, are searches that could have been found simply by adding ".com."
YouTube, Craigslist, and MySpace are some of the top ten most searched items; in the top 50 are Netflix, ESPN, and Hulu. Instead of heading directly to YouTube.com or Netflix.com, millions of users every month prefer to search for the sites on Google and click the top result, rather than typing a measly four extra characters.
Nothing demonstrates this (laziness? addiction?) more than searches for Facebook. The term "Facebook" was the top-searched term for 2010 (not to mention 2009), and accounted for 2.11% of all US searches. What's more, four variations on the term "Facebook" were among the top 10 searches—including "Facebook.com" and "www.Facebook.com".
Together the Facebook queries make up nearly 3.5% of overall Google searches, a 207% increase since last year. A recent report pegged monthly Google search queries at 10.6 billion, meaning Facebook-related searches—those users specifically looking to go to Facebook.com—make up around 370 million monthly searches in the US, and close to 4.5 billion searches annually.
For a company trying to make headway into social networking, Google drives a significant amount of traffic to other social networks. A whopping 4.18% of all Google searches are social network-related terms—billions of hits that, we can safely assume, are not heading to Google Buzz. And it's not likely the search giant is earning revenue from this traffic either; Google charges for advertising, not actual results. They are, however, paying for the servers that crunch these searches.
This represent a huge chunk of traffic that could easily disappear when more people figure out how to use their browser's address bar—or start using the increasingly popular mobile apps that take them directly to a site or service.