NEW YORK: A rising "social threat" from platforms like Facebook might loosen Google's grip on the global search advertising sector, a report suggests.

IHG and Screen Digest estimated the revenues delivered by Google's paid-for listings climbed 20%, to $25.3bn ($18.7bn; £15.8bn), in 2010.

The search industry as a whole was worth $30.4bn worldwide, a 17% expansion year-on-year, giving Google an 83% market share - an uptick of two percentage points.

When supplemented by display - where sales rose 61% - and mobile, Google's total revenues were  $28.9bn, a 22.5% year-on-year increase.

Vincent Létang, senior analyst and head of advertising research for IHS, argued this constituted a very impressive performance.

"2010 seemed like it might be the year that Google would surrender some of its dominance in the global search advertising market," he said.

"However, even amid these challenges, Google managed to outgrow the overall market."

One obstacle was the introduction of Microsoft's "decision engine" Bing, alongside the organisation's search alliance with Yahoo.

While these activities have not substantially undermined Google's position yet, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's ceo, is optimistic.

"We bet on Bing and are growing like a weed in that business," he said.

Another possible danger has been the advent of powerful domestic competitors in various countries, as shown by South Korea's NHN and Russia's Yandex.

Google's travails in China, where the firm redirected its local portal to Hong Kong following censorship concerns, mean Baidu enjoys a pre-eminent status.

The Chinese search category is valued at approximately $1.6bn, having registered a 60% improvement during 2010.

Google's share actually increased to 23.1% in Q4 2010, a 1.5 percentage point lift from Q3, online measurement specialist Analysys International recently stated.

This is a decline from the level of 35.6% recorded at the close of 2009, and left Google trailing Baidu's 71.7%.

Emerging Chinese operators such as and might make a modest impression, but it appears the sector should broadly retain its current shape for the medium term.

"Google and Baidu will lead as the top two," said Sabrina Dong, an analyst at Analysys International.

The surge of social media, and particularly Facebook, could thus prove the sole "real challenge" for Google, IHS and Screen Digest suggested.

"Social networking is the only major internet trend where Google has failed to make its mark by either acquiring or developing strong products, despite semi-failed short-lived attempts," said Létang.

More specifically, the fact Bing provides sponsored links in Facebook searches, and the integration of "social results" into the Microsoft-owned property's organic listings, demonstrates the potential impact on Google.

"If you're a Facebook user and you want to go look something up and you want to see what your friends are thinking about it, Bing is the place to do it," Ballmer said.

"Bing and Facebook will help you see what your friends like and don't like when you're out there searching around the internet."

Earlier this week, eMarketer pegged Facebook's 2010 ad revenues at $1.86bn, roughly 40% of which was from big corporations including Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble, and 60% by smaller companies.

"Those advertisers are really juicing Facebook's growth," said Debra Williamson, principal analyst at eMarketer.

"They buy advertising in bulk. They've done it for years on Google, and now they're taking that expertise to Facebook."

Data sourced from iSupple, AdAge, PC World, USA Today; additional content by Warc staff