Facebook is well on its way to taking Yahoo’s spot as the third largest Web property in the world. (Google and Microsoft are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively). Last summer Facebook took the No. 4 spot globally, displacing AOL, but according to comScore there was still an estimated 241 million unique visitors a month separating it from the No. 3 site, Yahoo. In December, 2009, that gap narrowed to 125 million unique visitors globally. (That was also the same month Facebook passed AOL in the U.S. to take the No. 4 spot domestically).
In December, 2009, Facebook attracted 469 million unique visitors, up an incredible 31 million visitors from the month before. To put that in perspective, in a single month Facebook gained as many new visitors as Yahoo did all year. That one-month gain was also the equivalent of adding as many people as all of Digg or half of Twitter.com. Meanwhile, Yahoo lost 7 million unique visitors from November to December to end the year at 594 million unique visitors. (In the U.S., Yahoo is a stronger No. 2 after Google, with 161 million uniques in December, compared to 173 million for Google, 138 million for Microsoft, and 112 Million for Facebook).
These numbers are different than the 350 million registered users Facebook itself counts, half of which come every day. ComScore estimates total traffic, which is larger than the number of reported registered users (you don’t have to be a Facebook member to visit a public page). And these are estimates, remember that. And they don’t include the 60 million people a month who log into other sites via Facebook Connect.
For the year, Facebook grew by nearly 250 million uniques. Repeating that will be difficult in 2010, but even if it slows to half that pace and Yahoo remains stagnant, Facebook could overpass Yahoo within a year to become the third largest site in the world, all without even necessarily going public. Passing Microsoft (No. 2) or Google (No. 1) in unique visitors will take a little longer. Microsoft’s sites ended the year with 727 million uniques worldwide (up 80 million), while Google’s attracted 899 million in December (up 123 million).
By other measures, Facebook is already larger than both Yahoo and Microsoft. Its pageviews grew 141 percent last year to 193 billion in December, nearly double Yahoo’s 100 billion (down 2 percent) and Microsoft’s 109 billion (up 54 percent). Google is still the largest pageview generator with 274 billion a month (up 35 percent). Yahoo has simply lost its zip. At least Microsoft and Google are still showing respectable growth for their size. But it is not too hard to imagine Facebook catching up to Google here as well (see chart below). Facebook also beats Yahoo in terms of total minutes spent on the site (116 million versus 101 million) and average minutes per visitor (247 minutes a month versus 170 for Yahoo).
Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 1 billion monthly active users. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004, initially as an exclusive network for Harvard students. It was a huge hit: in 2 weeks, half of the schools in the Boston area began demanding a Facebook network. Zuckerberg immediately recruited his friends Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes, and Eduardo Saverin to help build Facebook, and within four months, Facebook added 30 more college networks. The original...