Facebook Is Bigger Than Google!

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Even the mighty Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) is no match for the web's social-networking darling.

Internet traffic analyst Hitwise is reporting that Facebook received 7.07% of U.S. web traffic last week, barely edging past's 7.03% slice.

That may seem like a neck-and-neck race, but the trend is even more ominous. Google's market share of visits has grown by 9% over the past year, while Facebook has delivered a 185% growth spurt in that time. In other words, this narrow gap is likely to widen in the weeks to come.

Before you go short Google, keep a few important things in mind:

  • Google also owns YouTube and other popular sites that don't fall under the domain.
  • Facebook's site is sticky, but it's not as easy to monetize as Google's search engine results. At Google, visitors want to be sent elsewhere. In contrast, users can spend years on Facebook without clicking on an ad, while relevant sponsored entries are hard to ignore on Google.
  • Social networking is hot, but its users can be fickle. Friendster and News Corp.'s (NYSE: NWS  ) MySpace once seemed unstoppable, too.

Facebook is special, though. It has grown to 400 million active users worldwide, with most signing up over the past two years.




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Google's Orkut or AOL's (NYSE: AOL  ) Bebo haven't had those eye-popping spurts -- and likely never will. Searching through Facebook, it's becoming more of a surprise to find who isn't on the site than who has signed up. Whether you enjoy connecting with friends and family, or social gaming, you'd be hard pressed to deny Facebook's appeal.

Monetization will be the site's real challenge. Facebook may know who you are, where you are, and what you like, but it's been slapped around by privacy advocates when it tries to cash in on that knowhow.

The more lucrative paid-search space enjoys a different set of rules. Google, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) , Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) , AOL, and IAC's (Nasdaq: IACI  ) aren't criticized for serving up ads that perfectly target a search query. It's more than just good business; it's what engine users expect.

However, Facebook's gargantuan steps are still a beautiful thing to watch. They make you wonder how differently things would have played out for Yahoo! if it had succeeded in buying Facebook a couple of years ago.

Can Facebook's heady growth continue? Share your thoughts in the comment box below?

Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services, free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz remembers when social networks were an offline endeavor. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also a member of the Rule Breakers analytical team, seeking out the next great growth stock early in its defiance. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 16, 2010, at 6:31 PM, LDSGJA wrote:

    When they say traffic, do they mean hits or do they mean actual web traffic?

    Facebook is a lot more data intensive than Google. Pictures, videos, chats, and fancy Web2.0 interface vs Googles white background text search engine.

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