(Article first published as Facebook is "Number One"
on Technorati.)According to Experian Hitwise, Facebook was the most visited site in 2010, taking the number one spot from Google. Facebook was also the most searched term for the second year in a row. However, if the analyses by Hitwise were to include You Tube in its calculations, Google’s properties would outrank those of Facebook. Moreover, according to Hitwise, four of the top ten search terms were variations of Facebook, and they represented a 207 percent increase in searches over 2009.
What do these astounding statistics surrounding a social network say about us as a culture? Clearly, Facebook meets a perceived need in the lives of people. You don’t have 500 million users, and the traffic suggested by Hitwise’s analyses unless there is a profound chemistry between the users and the product. But what is it? Given the amount of users, I am sure that Facebook means different things to different people, but whatever it is, people are loving it. And where are users finding the time to indulge themselves so much? Free time? The boss’ time? Family time? Do-it-yourself-projects’ time? Etc.
Based on the phenomenal increase of traffic this past year as suggested by the activity of the search terms, Facebook will continue to grow in the foreseeable future.
Now for “friends,” that flagship word at Facebook. First of all, there are Facebook friends and there are real friends—at least that used to be the case. But with a half of a billion Facebook users in the world talking about their friends, do we really know if they are talking about their Facebook friends or their real friends? Or perhaps they use the two interchangeably. So, looking into the not too distant future, and given the robust presence of Facebook, is it possible that over time there will be a blurring of the meaning between Facebook friends and real friends so that we can no longer tell the difference? My point is that the time people spend interacting with friends via the Internet may be at the expense of developing social skills person to person. I hope the answer to that question is and will forever be no, but as the saying goes, never say never.