The total number of Web searches in February jumped by more than a third, driven in part by people looking for photos on social-networking sites, a Web research firm said.
Overall searches in February increased by 38 percent to 5.3 billion, compared with 3.8 billion in the same month a year ago, Nielsen/NetRatings said. The increase was due to more searches per person, since the number of unique searchers remained stable. The average Web user conducted 43.1 searches in February, compared with 33.2 a year ago. In contrast, the number of unique searchers increased year over year by a modest 6 percent.
Nielsen/NetRatings found that the number of searches for photos and graphics soared by 91 percent year over year, with Google Inc. capturing 71.9 percent of the total number of image searches. Yahoo Inc. was a distant second at 19.1 percent, followed by Ask.com with 3.5 percent. Microsoft Corp.'s MSN and America Online Inc. rounded out the top five.
The increase in image searches was attributed to the growing number of broadband households, and the rising popularity of social-networking sites, the researcher said. In the coming year, Nielsen/NetRatings expects to see an increase in searches for video, which is growing in popularity on the Web.
Google's and Yahoo's share of the search market in February rose 0.3 percent from January to 48.5 percent and 22.5 percent, respectively. MSN's fell by an equal amount to 22.5 percent, Nielsen NetRatings said this week. Rounding out the top five were AOL and My Way Search, which also remained relatively flat month-to-month at 6.6 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively.
Earlier this week, rival ComScore Networks reported that Google's share of the search market increased 6 percent in February to 42.3 percent, compared with a year ago. Yahoo's share, on the other hand, fell to 27.6 percent from 31.1 percent year over year, and MSN dropped to 13.5 percent from 16.3 percent.