Facebook Surpasses Google As Top Site On Internet

The rivalry between Facebook and Google was a never-ending story in 2010 and, so far at least, it’s looking like Mark Zuckerberg’s creation is winning the war:

This may go down as the year that social networking trumped searching as America’s favorite online pastime.

In 2010, Facebook pushed past Google to become the most popular site on the Internet for the first time, according to two Web tracking firms. The title caps a year of rapid ascent for Facebook in which the social network hit 500 million users and founder Mark Zuckerberg was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year. It also marks another milestone in the ongoing shift in the way Americans spend their time online, a social change that profoundly alters how people get news and interact with one another – and even the definition of the word “friend.”

Since its inception, the service has evolved beyond a vehicle for sharing birthday photos and reconnecting with high school classmates to become a universe unto itself, one where users can watch videos, solicit restaurant recommendations and play games surrounded (at least virtually) by friends and family. Its rise suggests that the influence of search giants such as Google, which answer search queries with a complicated algorithm for ranking links, is giving way to something more personal: our network of friends and other connections.

“This is the most transformational shift in the history of the Internet,” said Lou Kerner, a social-media analyst with Wedbush Securities and former chief executive of Bolt.com, an early networking site. “We’re moving from a Google-centric Web to a people-centric Web.”

According to Experian Hitwise, Facebook jumped to the top spot after spending last year in third place and the year before ranked ninth. The company found that 8.9 percent of unique online visits were to Facebook this year, compared with Google’s 7.2 percent. Meanwhile, ComScore, another firm that calculates Web traffic, said Facebook is on track in 2010 to surpass Google for the first time in number of pages viewed. Each unique visit to a site can result in multiple page views. (Washington Post Co. Chairman Donald E. Graham is a member of Facebook’s board of directors.)

“There is a strong point of view held by a lot of people that Facebook communication is more superficial,” said David Kirkpatrick, journalist and author of “The Facebook Effect.” “It’s certainly more cursory, but that doesn’t make it less significant or meaningful. It’s just easier, and that’s why it’s so popular.”

A survey this summer by the Nielsen Co. found that Americans spent nearly 23 percent of their time online using social networks, up from about 16 percent in a 2009 poll. Social networking took up more time than any other activity, including e-mail, which experienced a decline. Searching took up just less than 4 percent of time online, according to the survey.

A good part of the disparity can be explained by the different functions of the sites, which can make them difficult to compare. Consumers use Google to get to other places, but they log on to Facebook to stay. That helped Facebook account for roughly a quarter of online page views in November, significantly outpacing Google, Hitwise said.

But there is one key area in which Facebook has yet to surpass Google: revenue. The search giant recorded nearly $24 billion in sales this year. Several news reports put Facebook’s revenue at $800 million in 2009, and the company is expected to bring in about a billion dollars this year – though how profitable Facebook is remains in question.

Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has said he eventually plans to take the company public, and the timing is the subject of hot debate among investors. According to SharesPost, an exchange for shares of private companies, Facebook is worth more than $45 billion. Google’s market value is more than four times that amount.

Something tells me that the gap in revenue will be closing in the next year.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Marty Beach says:

    Just curious, but are ‘visits’ the relevant metric they once were? How many sites have site searches ‘Powered by Google’ ? or for that matter, have the ubiquitous ‘Like on Facebook’ button? Does that usage get captured by these studies? I would think that both of these feed the advertisers, so would be pretty relevant in terms of a proxy for value.