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Microsoft monopolized the desktop. Now it owns the lion’s share of the world’s top Web sites. It was once thought the Internet was too vast to be conquered. Now one-quarter of all minutes spent online in the United States go to just three firms: America Online, Microsoft and Yahoo. While Microsoft’s portal, MSN.com, ranks third among the three in the U.S., and second worldwide, Microsoft’s broad range of properties could make it a global powerhouse. Microsoft’s dominance is becoming apparent as Web ratings firms begin measuring traffic in other countries around the world. Forty-five percent of the top five Web sites in 26 countries are affiliated with Microsoft, according to an analysis of Nielsen NetRatings data by The Standard. Only 1 percent are AOL sites. Microsoft has a considerable advantage when it comes to gathering Web traffic. When it famously tied its Internet Explorer browser to its operating system, it also set that browser by default to a Microsoft homepage. Some 86 percent of Web browsers in use today are Microsoft ones, according to traffic-analysis firm WebSideStory. And 59 percent of U.S. adults surveyed by Cyber Dialogue say they’ve never changed their browser’s default homepage; Microsoft’s numbers increase every time those users go online. But it gets better. If an Internet Explorer user types an address incorrectly, a Microsoft search page pops up offering help. That “auto-search” traffic accounted for 4 percent of Microsoft’s page views in June, according to data from Compete, a traffic-analysis firm. Globally, Microsoft’s surfing utility Passport.com shows up frequently in rankings of top sites. But rather than being a destination, the electronic verification tool loads a Microsoft page every time a surfer logs into a Passport-affiliated site, further boosting Microsoft’s numbers. Data from Compete shows 80 percent of Microsoft’s U.S. page views go to its free e-mail service, Hotmail. Another traffic researcher, ComScore, finds only 1 percent of the time spent on Microsoft sites is at MSNBC, and 15 percent goes to the MSN homepage. By comparison, Yahoo’s traffic is far less concentrated in any one area. And Microsoft still trails Yahoo in unique visitors worldwide. Traffic long has been the key metric for determining the value of a Web site. But because surfers aren’t actively loading many Microsoft pages, the value of those page views is questionable. With all the auto-search and homepage shenanigans, Microsoft’s ranking atop the global site list may be less than meets the eye.
1 Yahoo 120.2
2 MSN 102.7
3 AOL Time Warner 94.1
4 Microsoft 69.7
5 Lycos Network 68.1
6 [email protected] 33.1
7 About: The Human Internet 26.2
8 InfoSpace 25.2
9 Google 24.5
10 Amazon 24.4
11 eBay 24.0
12 CNET Networks 23.5
13 Walt Disney Internet Group 22.2
14 Vivendi Universal 21.5
15 FortuneCity 20.6
Sites in red are owned by Microsoft. *Unique visitors in millions. Source: Nielsen NetRatings, July 2001

Related Articles from The Industry Standard: Jupiter Media Metrix Beats Estimates — But Who’s Counting? Master of Its Domain Pop-Under Web Ads May Backfire, Says Jupiter Copyright � 2001 The Industry Standard

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