It looks like a small but significant landmark in the evolution of the web may have been passed. Hitwise is reporting that last month visits to social networks overtook visits to search engines in the UK.
During May, social networks accounted for 11.88% of UK Internet visits and search engines accounted for 11.33%. A small differential, but it reflects at the changing way that people use the web.
Don’t get excited
While social media advocates are bound to get excited about this statistic (social media marketing executives are probably updating their Powerpoint presentations to include this graph right now), it’s important not to go overboard. This isn’t social media replacing search engines.
We’re all spending increasing amounts of time online. Most mobile phones sold now feature an at least passable browsing experience and Facebook is often a key marketing point for mobile networks. Could it simply be that the amount of time we have available to spend online has increased thanks to improved mobile technology?
People are far more likely to make repeated visits to Facebook and other social networks (Hitwise’s definition here is pretty broad, including YouTube as a social network, for example) than they are search engines. You don’t ‘hang out’ on a search engine page (unless you’re playing Pacman) – you just go there to find another page. While social search is still at an experimental stage, a traditional search engine is still preferable.
So, social networks may be on the up but search engines have nothing to worry about – for now.