Summary:

Social networks are now taking a greater share of UK internet visits than search engines, according to these May figures from Hitwise, which…

Social networks are now taking a greater share of UK internet visits than search engines, according to these May figures from Hitwise, which monitors eight million users’ ISP logs in the country…

This could be something of a pivotal moment, at which internet users began seeking their friends’ information tips as much as indices’. “Although social networks and search engines perform different functions, they both act as gateways to the wider internet,” says Hitwise analyst Robin Goad.

Social site visits surpassing those to search engines doesn’t necessarily mean that people are swapping their preferred discovery behaviour, as much as it signifies the growing popularity of social networks themselves in isolation.

But a melding of the two arenas is coming – Facebook offers Bing web search to U.S. users, while search engines – most prominently, Google (NSDQ: GOOG) – have taken their first tentative steps in customising users’ search results based on what their friends know.

There’s victory here for both sides. Vanilla search sites must move beyond their one-dimensional algorithmic indexing, but the social networks – impacted by the downturn and by privacy concerns – have found it difficult to mine social profiles, as promised, to super-target adverts.

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