But research firm Hitwise has provided some fresh metrics that put the rapid rise of Facebook in dramatic context, suggesting just how far into the mainstream the social networking phenomenon has moved.
From September 2008 to September 2009, Hitwise reported that Facebook’s share of the domestic social networking market soared 194 percent.
That surge in traffic roughly corresponds to the company’s internal tally charting the addition of new members worldwide. According to the company’s timeline, Facebook signed up its 100 millionth user in August 2008. By September 2009, Facebook passed the 300 million mark.
But the social site sporting the most impressive growth chart over the past year, by the measure of Hitwise and every other Internet data-tracking firm, was Twitter.
In the past year, Twitter saw its share of the social networking market jump by 1170 percent.
By Hitwise’s tally, Facebook accounted for nearly 59 percent of U.S. traffic to social networking Web sites in September. MySpace took the second spot with a tick more than 30 percent of the market, though that mark represented a 55 percent drop over the past year, illustrating the opposite trajectories of the two companies.
Twitter, for its admittedly impressive hockey-stick growth chart, only notched a little under 2 percent of the market, checking in at No. 4 on Hitwise’s rankings, just behind Tagged.
MySpace did top Hiwise’s list in one important category, boasting the higher average time users spent on its site than any of its rivals.
Meantime, the research firm also offered a glimpse into the demographics of the social networking sector, finding particularly steep rates of growth among older Web users.
Over the past year, Facebook saw a 108 percent surge in the number of members 55 years or older. Among the same set, MySpace enjoyed a 26 percent increase.
Across the social-networking category, participation of the oldest demographic shot up 77 percent.
For its analysis, Hitwise included 155 different sites to fill out the social networking category.