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.
"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.
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.