Since May, Bebo has been the second most searched-for brand in the UK after eBay, but Bebo's rapid rise is narrowing the gap. The market share of UK internet searches for "bebo" has increased more than three-fold in the past six months and 17.6% in the past three months.
The gap in the share of searches for "ebay" and "bebo" was only 5% in the four weeks to 30 September 2006, down from 25% three months ago and 80% six months ago.
Social networking sites Bebo, MySpace and YouTube have joined Faceparty among the top 20 most searched-for brands in the UK, comparing September 2005 with 2006.
In September 2005, there were 12 brands among the top 20 that were retailers (those whose primary business is to sell products or services), but that number dropped to eight in September 2006.
In addition to Bebo, MySpace and YouTube, other new entrants were Rightmove, Wikipedia and Google Earth.
While last year the top 20 online brands were clearly dominated by retailers, there is now an almost even balance between retailers and brands that support rich content through advertising.
This rise of the advertising supported business model has been fuelled by continued growth in online advertising, as was reported earlier this month by the UK Internet Advertising Bureau.
By Heather Hopkins, vice-president of research at Hitwise UK.