Facebook passed a significant milestone last week, topping Google for the first time as the most popular destination on the Web, according to Web metrics firm Hitwise. Facebook had previously topped the metric company's traffic counter for single individual days, but had never finished out a week in the top spot.
Hitwise, a division of Experian, reported that Facebook accounted for 7.07 percent of all U.S. Internet visits last week, just inching out Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), which accounted for 7.03 percent of all visits.
This latest data point follows a long string of mile markers that have accompanied Facebook's soaring popularity. The site now counts more than 400 million users worldwide and has more than doubled in a year as it continues to pull away from other social networking sites, eclipsing its fading rival MySpace first globally, then domestically.
According to Hitwise, Facebook's traffic count for last week represented a 185 percent increase over the comparable week in 2009. Visits to Google increased just 9 percent over the same period.
Taken together, the two companies accounted for more than 14 percent of all U.S. Internet visits.
In looking at Hitwise's figures, it is important to note that the firm is analyzing traffic to Facebook.com and Google.com, meaning that visits to other Google properties, such as YouTube and Gmail, are not included in the tally.
Industry observers see the two firms at the top of Hitwise's list in increasing competition as the Web continues to socialize and the discovery of content becomes an ever-more viral process.
Google, for its part, has been making a number of moves toward the social space, including the integration of user-generated content like Twitter posts into its search results. But nowhere was the escalating competition more evident than in the recent launch of Buzz, a social network built out of Google's Gmail service.
Though it was dogged by privacy concerns from the outset (a condition familiar to Facebook), Buzz was widely seen as the clearest sign yet that Google took the threat from Facebook and other social sites seriously.