Here’s an interesting story, according to Hitwise data. Google was the most visited Website by U.S. Internet users for 364 days of 2009. Google had the year at #1 all to itself until visits to Facebook surged on Christmas Day and Mr. Zuckerberg’s company passed Google to become the most visited U.S. site for the first time ever. Facebook then fell back behind Google up until New Year’s Day (2010), when it once again passed ahead of Google as the most visited site in the country.
The fact that it was two major holidays, which led to Facebook passing Google in visits, is interesting on a variety levels. What was it that made these days so popular to log onto the social networking site?
Bill Tancer, General Manager of Global Research at Hitwise, hypothesizes that being home for the holidays also means being physically away from social groups, which likely drove people online to connect.
I’d argue that it may be something a little deeper than that. Facebook has become so ingrained in most people’s “friendships,” or as Mark Zuckerberg likes to call the “social graph,” that connecting with loved ones (friends and extended family) on Christmas Day naturally occurs through Facebook. A common catchphrase among the Facebook generation is it’s not real until it’s on Facebook, and in a lot of ways that trumps picking up the phone or even taking the time to get together in-person (in-terms of simplicity, quantity of folks you can connect with and instant gratification).
It also points to an intent issue that may become a powerful advantage for Facebook over Google as it continues to improve upon its search feature. For instance, on Christmas Day my intent for logging onto my computer and the Internet was to share what I was up to and what gifts I got with my social graph. I also wanted to see what my friends were up to. I wasn’t, at the time, looking to dig up more information on the failed terrorist attack on a Northwest plane landing in Detroit or directions to a local restaurant. If that was my intent I probably would have moved over to Google.
The point is, on days like Christmas Day, the basic human intention to enhance our relationships (i.e. log on onto Facebook) will always win out over a Google search. But how far away are we from that intention winning out everyday?
Furthermore, as Zuckerberg and Co. continue to improve search and people get more comfortable with using it, who’s to say that we ever feel the need to exit stage right to “Google it”? After all, would I rather find information about a restaurant I’m looking into or concert I’m going to from an algorithm or my closest friends?