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Facebook Gaining on Google’s YouTube in Web Video

The Google and Facebook websites
Clips generated by Facebook users were watched by 41 million people in April, more than three times as many as a year earlier, when there were 13 million. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Social-networking website Facebook Inc. is growing faster than Google Inc.’s YouTube as a place to watch videos.

Clips generated by Facebook users were watched by 41 million people in April, more than three times as many as a year earlier, when there were 13 million. YouTube grew 25 percent to 135 million unique viewers over the same period, Reston, Virginia-based data researcher ComScore Inc. said this week.

Contending with Google in video is a step in Facebook’s bid to become the go-to website for content-sharing. It surpassed Google’s search engine in weekly hits in March, becoming the most visited site in the U.S. for the first time, according to New York-based data tracker Experian Hitwise.

A rival to YouTube poses challenges for Mountain View, California-based Google, which bought the money-losing service, with its clips of robot-riding cats, fraternity drinking games and other amateur videos, for $1.65 billion in 2006. Analyst Doug Anmuth of Barclays Capital in New York has said YouTube may see its first year of profitability in 2010. Google doesn’t break out its sales by segment.

“What people are doing now more and more is uploading their own home videos to share with friends and family,” said Colin Dixon, an analyst at Frisco, Texas-based researcher Diffusion Group. “YouTube is a very public place,” whereas Facebook may offer more privacy, he said.

Growing Popularity

Facebook, based in Palo Alto, California, has the fifth-largest audience for Web videos, ComScore said, behind properties run by Google, Yahoo! Inc., News Corp., and Vevo, the music-video site jointly operated by Sony Corp., Universal Music Group and Abu Dhabi Media Co.

Since April 2009, the social network has climbed past AOL Inc., Viacom Inc., Microsoft Corp., and Hulu, a video site whose owners include Walt Disney Co. and News Corp., ComScore said.

A report released today by the Pew Internet & American Life Project shows social-networking sites are more popular for posting clips than video-sharing sites.

Among respondents to a survey conducted by the group, 52 percent of people who said they upload videos to the Web do it through sites such as Facebook or News Corp.’s MySpace. Less than half, or 49 percent, do it through video-sharing sites like YouTube and Google Video, according to the report, “The State of Online Video,” which surveyed 763 adult Internet users in the U.S. during June 2009.

Privacy Controls

There’s demand among some Web users for controls that limit who can see their videos, said Kristen Purcell, author of the report and associate director of the project, a branch of the Washington nonprofit Pew Research Center.

Thirty-nine percent of video uploaders interviewed said they don’t let anyone other than family and friends watch their clips. About as many, 35 percent, say they sometimes feel they should be more careful about the videos they post.

Chris Dale, a spokesman for Google, said uploads to YouTube “have been trending in the right direction.” He wouldn’t comment on whether social-networking sites have affected usage of the video service.

Facebook was started in 2004 and first enabled users to share videos in May 2007.

“We generally don’t comment on third-party data,” Kathleen Loughlin, a spokeswoman for Facebook, said in an e-mail.

The degree to which sites like Facebook are gaining on YouTube remains a matter of debate, according to Brett Wilson, chief executive officer of TubeMogul, an online-video distribution service based in Emeryville, California.

Of clips uploaded in the 30 days through June 2 by TubeMogul’s 180,000 users, 1.2 percent chose Facebook and 17 percent picked YouTube.

“The growth rate of Facebook is extraordinary, but the raw numbers are nowhere near YouTube,” Wilson said.

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