Facebook dethroned Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) as the top-visited website in 2010, as well as the most searched term of the year, a report says. Into 2011, it remains to be seen whether the search engine giant can regain ground.

According to a report from Internet analytics company Experian Hitwise, Facebook accounted for 8.93% of all U.S. visits between January and November 2010. Google.com ranked second with 7.19% of visits, followed by Yahoo! Mail with 3.52%, Yahoo! with 3.30%, and Google-owned YouTube with 2.65%.

The Experian analysis found that the most frequently searched term this year was "facebook."

"Facebook" was the top-searched term overall for the second straight year, followed by "Facebook login" and "YouTube," says Experian.

Facebook, a site launched in 2004, has over 500 million users, and its rise marks a shift from search engines and Internet portals.

There are more than 200 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices. People who use Facebook on their mobile devices are twice as active on Facebook than non-mobile users.

Advertising provides most of Facebook's revenue, one area it is yet to exceed compared with Google, which reported sales of about $24 billion in 2009. Facebook is reportedly expected to rake in about $2 billion in 2010, significantly up from $800 million in 2009.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, who was chosen as Time's Person of the Year for 2010, had early last year said the hugely popular social-networking site is in no rush to go public. S&P Equity Research, in a company-specific predictions report for the Internet industry for 2011, said major social-media companies like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are in no rush to become publicly traded entities despite the IPO market warming up somewhat in the second half of 2010.

"Facebook would benefit from another year of growth absent the added scrutiny that comes with a public listing," Business Week reported in 2010.

On exchanges for privately held companies, Facebook is worth more than $45 billion, about four times less than Google.

Analyst Greg Sterling of SearchEngineLand.com says the Hitwise study does not track website visits via mobile devices, and the number of searches on Google's Chrome browser was uncertain.

"This is right now more symbolic than anything" to see Facebook overtake Google in the United States, Sterling told AFP.

"Google is a very utilitarian site, where people go to make a decision, whereas Facebook is for entertainment," Sterling said. But if Facebook "were to concentrate on search, they could do something that stands to really hurt Google."

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International Business Times, The Global Business News Leader

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