We always suspected it. Now University of Oxford researchers managed to illustrate Google’s and Facebook’s staggering domination of global Internet traffic.
Google is the clear number one, according to research done by Dr. Mark Graham and Stefano De Sabbata.
“The countries where Google is the most visited website account for half of the entire Internet population, with over one billion people,” the report states.
The researchers compiled their findings based on data from web analytics firm Alexa on Aug. 12. Alexa, which is owned by Amazon Inc., combines unique daily visitors and total page views over the period of one month and compiles a new rank on any given day.
“The site with the highest combination of unique visitors and page views is ranked number one in that country,” reads the Alexa website.
Facebook is not far behind Google, however. It ranks first in 50 countries, dominating mostly in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East.
“The supremacy of Google and Facebook over any other site on the Web is clearly apparent. We also see an interesting geographical continuity of these two ‘empires,’” the researchers write.
Google is top in North America (excluding Mexico), Europe, Oceania, and India and first in 62 countries. It also comes in second place behind Facebook in 36 of the 50 countries, where Facebook takes the top spot. Alexa also ranks Google and Facebook first and second in its global table.
Why Facebook Can Beat Google
As to why Facebook can be ahead of the more essential search engine Google in any country, De Sabbata has the following theory.
“In most of these countries it’s a very close race. For example, in the map which uses the data collected from Alexa in mid-August, Norway is colored in blue, because Facebook was the most used one. When I checked the same data from Alexa two months later, it said the most used website was Google. It means that in some of these cases Facebook is maybe the first by very little.”
De Sabbata then went on to explain that there is no way to tell because of the way Alexa controls the data. “I have no means to confirm this, because we have just a rank, we don’t have numbers,” he says. Alexa does not publish the absolute number of page views and unique visitors but merely a relative rank between sites.
Facebook’s dominance in social media and the local element of search could be other factors.
“Google and Facebook offer very different services. It might be there are other search engines that are not used as much as Google, but enough to take the first place away from Google,” De Sabbata says.
In addition, it is unclear how other Google services, such as Gmail, are counted under the Google.com umbrella. YouTube.com and Gmail.com, for example, are ranked as standalone sites, while mail.google.com is counted under Google.com
China, Japan, South Korea, and Russia are the big exceptions. “The situation is more complex in Asia, as local competitors have been able to resist the two large American empires,” the report states. There is a striking reason however, as to how the locals could resist: Both Google and Facebook are blocked in China by the regime’s firewall according to Greatfire.org.
Consequently, in China and Korea, Chinese search engine Baidu is first in a market of over 500 million Internet users. In Japan and Taiwan, Yahoo is the most visited site. Yahoo is cooperating with Japanese company SoftBank and bought Taiwanese site Wretch in 2007.
The researchers think the reason Baidu is number one in South Korea could be due to “skewed” data, as South Korea also operates a popular search engine called Naver.
In Russia, local search engine Yandex is ahead of Google and Facebook.
Can Google Overtake Facebook?
With Google controlling many different aspects of Internet life and Facebook only offering social media, it might be only a question of time until Google+ becomes big enough to overtake Facebook.
“This is very difficult to say,” De Sabbata says. “Probably having an integrated website offers big opportunities. For example, if you search for news, you go to Google anyway.”
However, he still has doubts about Google+. “It doesn’t seem to have had as much fortune as other Google services. It’s not as popular as Facebook. You need a critical mass of people that use the service. If I use Google+ by myself and none of my friends use Google+ it’s completely useless.”
At times Google has the shroud of invincibility and seems to succeed at everything it does. There are, however, some projects that met with failure, such as Google Wave, which was shut down in April 2012. The service tried to integrate Gmail, chat, and online document management.
According to De Sabbata, this could happen to Google+ too.
“Google Wave never reached enough people to make it usable. If you have documents to share and nobody to share with, it just doesn’t work.”
Google Pushing Google+ Through Integrated Model
In an effort to move its user base away from Facebook and to Google+, Google started signing up new users for Google+ automatically in January 2012. The effort has so far had limited success.
“They are trying to push Google+ through the other services,” De Sabbata says. “It may go through there, but it’s really difficult to say whether it grows as big as Facebook. I wouldn’t bet on it.”