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Facebook bigger than Jesus online in 2010

US securities watchdog crashes party with prelim stock trading probe

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The first rule of Facebook is that you always talk about Facebook, at least that is according to stats released by Experian Hitwise that show that Mark Zuckerberg's social network was the most searched for term online in 2010.

"This is the second year that the social networking website has been the top search term overall, accounting for 2.11 per cent of all searches," noted the research outfit.

"Four variations of the term 'facebook' were among the top 10 terms and accounted for 3.48 per cent of searches overall."

Google's YouTube was the third most-searched term online in the US this year. Craigslist and MySpace also got a look-in on the top ten list.

More interestingly, Hitwise said that Facebook was the most visited site in 2010, beating out Google and Yahoo!'s mail portal.

"Facebook was the top-visited website for the first time and accounted for 8.93 per cent of all US visits between January and November 2010. Google.com ranked second with 7.19 per cent of visits, followed by Yahoo! Mail (3.52 per cent), Yahoo! (3.30 percent) and YouTube (2.65 percent)," said Hitwise.

Microsoft's MSN climbed from ninth to sixth place in the past year, while the company's mail.live.com site, which hosts its Hotmail estate, slipped down the list from sixth place in 2009 to eighth place in 2010.

Redmond's search engine Bing bookended the list by becoming the tenth most visited website in 2010, according to Hitwise.

But while Facebook has been riding high in the online popularity charts, less pleasingly - for Time magazine's Person of the Year™ Zuckerberg, at least - the company also appears to be under scrutiny from the US securities watchdog.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, citing sources familiar with the matter, that share trading at unlisted firms such as Facebook and Twitter is being closely looked at by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

A series of letters have been sent to an unknown number of people trading in the stock of Facebook and Twitter. It's understood that the SEC, whose investigation is at a preliminary stage, wants to know how such funds are valuing shares of those privately-held internet companies.

Private exchanges such as SecondMarket and SharePost have fuelled the shares game in Silicon Valley start-ups such as Facebook in recent months.

The market is particularly attractive to ex-employees and early investors, who have sold their stock as the suggested value of Facebook and Twitter has rocketed - even while the companies remain unlisted on New York's stock exchange. ®

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