Facebook has officially taken the throne as the most popular social network in America. Facebook surpassed MySpace in U.S.-based traffic for the first time in May, according to new data released by Web metrics firm ComScore. The news comes amid other signs of success for Facebook and struggle for MySpace, creating what may be a perfect storm for a changing of the guards.
Facebook scored 70.278 million unique visitors in the U.S. in May, ComScore reports, compared with MySpace's 70.237 million. The difference isn't enormous, but in the big picture, it may be significant.
Just look at how far things have slid over the past year: In May of '08, MySpace was sitting pretty at 73.7 million visits, while Facebook was following with only 35.6 million for the month. That means Facebook has nearly doubled its usage in a single year, while MySpace has fallen about 5 percent. The trend seems to suggest that in addition to some veteran users likely switching sites, the majority of new social network users are also flocking to Facebook.
Lest you think things have since calmed down, even more recent numbers from traffic measurement company Hitwise find Facebook's share of the social network market jumped 22 percent from May to mid-June. Facebook Chat also reached a new milestone of 1 billion messages sent per day just this week. Amid all of that, MySpace announced Tuesday it's cutting nearly a third of its staff as it attempts to regain its footing.
Social Network Shift
The change is reminiscent of the shift occurring in the browser world right now: After years of domination, Microsoft's Internet Explorer has been steadily losing ground for months. With the low adoption rate of IE 8 and IE's ongoing overall drop in market share, it's looking like my past predictions of its ending reign may come true even sooner than I'd suspected.
The two scenarios really are somewhat similar: An early favorite is slowly being surpassed by a later arrival. Little by little, the challenger is innovating while the past ruler is stagnating, or simply following. And, little by little, even the most novice computer users are starting to catch on to the difference.
In the case of Facebook, the company seems to be working overtime to achieve those innovations. There was the introduction of custom Facebook usernames just last week -- that alone gave Facebook a growth of nearly 3 percent in market share, according to Hitwise. Then there was December's debut of the Web-wide Facebook Connect system, which extended Facebook's reach far beyond its own domain. Factor in the start of Twitter-esque live-streaming updates and some significant growth in mobile usage, and you've got a fairly meaty list of wins. The negative-turned-positive privacy debacle earlier this year probably didn't hurt, either.
Facebook became the global social network leader one year ago. If the current trends continue -- and thus far, they show no signs of slowing down -- its lead in the U.S. is likely only going to grow stronger as well. Should MySpace have some secret move hidden up its sleeve, it had better break it out soon. Once the tides have completely shifted, it's going to be a heck of a lot harder to swim upstream and get people back to turn back around.