Facebook Connect is what propelled Facebook to overtake MySpace as the most popular social networking site ranked by US visits, according to Hitwise Director of Research Heather Dougherty.

Grabbing the top social networking spot during the week ended May 30, 2009, Facebook has since gone on to become the second most-visited website overall, after Google.

Facebook received 58% of social networking site visits for the week ended Sept. 5, 2009, trailed by MySpace with 31%, Dougherty writes.

Facebook Connect

The launch of Facebook Connect in early December 2008 fueled Facebook's surge to the front of the social networking pack, according to Dougherty:

With Facebook Connect, a user who wants to post comments on websites and blogs needs only a single identity—his or her Facebook ID—rather than a distinct ID and password for each site and blog. The program also allows users to post articles from other sites directly to their Facebook news feeds.

The New York Times, CNN.com, WashingtonPost.com, Hulu, Huffington Post, and more than 15,000 other sites worldwide now participate in Facebook Connect.

Furthermore, Facebook's recent acquisition of FriendFeed will extend the power of the single portable Facebook identity across the Internet, Dougherty writes.

Other factors helping Facebook's growth in market share, she points out, are a cleaner layout and mobile applications on the iPhone and BlackBerry allowing access to Facebook anywhere.

Category Growth

As sites such as Facebook and Twitter have gained popularity, the social networking category has undergone accelerated growth:

  • Visits to a custom category of 155 social networking websites rose 53% during the week ended Sept 5, compared with the same week in 2008, says Dougherty.
  • In the past five weeks, visits to social networking sites reached the highest levels of the last three years. The previous peak occurred during the week ended June 23, 2007, when MySpace visits crested.

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