NEW YORK: Facebook has overtaken Google to become the most popular website in America, figures from Experian Hitwise show.

The research firm reported that Facebook received 8.9% of all online visits in the US between January and November 2010.

Google fell to second on 7.2%, followed by Yahoo Mail on 3.5%, Yahoo's main portal on 3.3% and YouTube on 2.7%.

At the parent company level, Google's portfolio – including Gmail, YouTube and Google Maps – took 9.6% of visits, helping it stay in front of Facebook on this metric.

More broadly, the ten leading individual web properties – also housing MSN, MySpace, Windows Live Mail and Bing – accounted for 33% of activity during the opening 11 months of last year, up 12% on 2009.

Facebook climbed from third in the 2009 rankings and ninth in 2008, and enjoys a particularly impressive dwell time among members, Experian Hitwise suggested.

Indeed, the Palo Alto-based platform delivered approximately 25% of page views in November 2010.

"This is the most transformational shift in the history of the internet," Lou Kerner, a social media analyst at Wedbush Securities, argued.

"We're moving from a Google-centric web to a people-centric web."

Such a perspective essentially ties up with the vision outlined by Mark Zuckerburg, founder of Facebook, when speaking recently to Time Magazine, which recognised him as its latest "Person of the Year".

"We're trying to map out what exists in the world," he said. "In the world, there's trust. I think as humans we fundamentally parse the world through the people and relationships we have around us."

"So at its core, what we're trying to do is map out all of those trust relationships, which you can call, colloquially, most of the time, friendships."

Based on analysis of the top 1,000 search terms entered across America in 2010, Experian Hitwise also stated that Facebook led the charts on this measure, boasting a 2.1% share.

Alongside the actual name of the site, "facebook login" resided in second place, "" claimed sixth and "" made ninth, with the four expressions responsible for a collective 3.5% proportion of queries.

While the Web 2.0 pioneer may increasingly be a rival to Google, Heather Dougherty, director of research at Experian Hitwise, believes an interesting balance is emerging between the two brands.

"They continue to sort of work together as well as compete," she said. "They're kind of a funny 'frenemy.'"

Elsewhere in the search table, Google's YouTube occupied third on 1.1%, ahead of classifieds hub Craigslist and News Corp's MySpace.

Internet auction giant eBay came in seventh, beating Yahoo in eighth, and Mapquest completed the top ten.

New additions into the group of the 50 entries utilised with the greatest frequency included Netflix, Verizon Wireless, ESPN, Wells Fargo and Hulu, according to Experian Hitwise.

Overall, however, social networking "dominated" this selection of terms, as relevant words and phrases generated 4.2% of searches.

Looking forward, Zuckerberg predicted Facebook's influence could grow more pervasive as business models change in the coming five years.

"Most applications are going to become social, and most industries are going to be rethought in a way where social design and doing things with your friends is at the core of how these things work," he said.

Data sourced from Washington Post, Time, Experian Hitwise; additional content by Warc staff