According to figures released by Nielsen, Google and Facebook were the two most-visited web brands in 2011. Google led the way with 153.4 million unique visitors per month, followed by Facebook with 137.6 million and Yahoo! in a close third at 130.1 million. YouTube and Microsoft’s Bing were the fourth and fifth most-visited sites.
The dominance of Google and Facebook comes as little surprise in a year where the two companies grabbed plenty of headlines. Facebook, for its part, showed plenty signs of healthy growth. The social media site gained its 800 millionth member, it acquired several smaller sites, and it went on a high-profile talent acquisition search. It is expected that the company will hire several thousand new employees in the next year, an incredible testament to its growth in an otherwise stagnant economy. Facebook has also made news with its plans to go public in the next year – and initial public offering that many experts predict will be the largest ever. To prepare for the I.P.O., the company has worked to shore-up its advertising strategy, comply with F.T.C. privacy requests, and ensure that Facebook users face a high switching cost if they decide to start using a different social media platform. The new Timeline feature goes a long ways towards that end.
Google has also displayed strong signs of vibrancy and growth. The most obvious of these is its stock price (GOOG): since January, stock in Google have risen almost 9% to $645 per share. This outperforms both the Dow Jones Index and the NASDAQ, not to mention competitors such as Yahoo!, Microsoft, and AOL. Google has shown growth in other ways as well. It has invested considerably in the smartphone industry, introduced Google+, and brought its Street View program to a variety of new countries and locations. It has also continued to invest in Google X, a secret experimental laboratory whose existence nonetheless makes it no secret that the company is flush with cash.
Google and Facebook also dominate their respective markets. Google is by far the Internet’s most-used search engine, while Facebook is well ahead of Blogger and Twitter (45.7 million and 23.6 million visitors, respectively) in the social networking arena. Will these two giants continue to dominate in 2012? All indicators say yes, but only time will truly tell.