Facebook Draws Record Holiday Traffic

Social networkers flocked to the Web service on Christmas Eve.
Facebook users visited the social networking site in record numbers on Christmas Eve, according to Hitwise.

Hitwise reported that traffic rose, bringing Facebook 2.18% of all U.S. Internet visits the night before Christmas. That's up from the social networking site's 1.42% average share of U.S. Internet visits in November. The site ranked fifth among all Web sites, up from its ranking of eighth in November.

Hitwise said it uncovered similar patterns in the United Kingdom and with Facebook's chief competitor, MySpace. Heather Hopkins, senior online analyst for Hitwise, reported the trend. Hopkins said she is unsure what seems to motivate users to turn to social networking sites on the holidays, but she proposed several theories.

She said that winter storms could have helped drive traffic in Chicago and several Northeast cities, which drove more traffic to Facebook than other areas.

However, last year, Facebook traffic peaked on Christmas, so users may just be reaching out to friends because they are bored and "stuck home with family," she said. Hopkins said she believes that the most likely scenario is that member traffic rose because people want to send holiday wishes to friends.

Metrics showing an increase in visits to Web sites that offer online greetings, as well as a rise in visits to e-mail providers, seem to support that theory, she said.

Last year, Facebook traffic declined from the holiday peak during the first quarter, only to return to those levels in midsummer and surpass them as the holidays approached.