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Google Pulling Away From Pack

Market-share gains leave Yahoo! and Microsoft in the dust.


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gained market share in Internet searches in December at the expense of rivals





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, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company had a 48.8% share of the search market, up 5.7 percentage points from a year earlier. Yahoo! had 21.4%, a decline of 0.3 percentage points. Microsoft's MSN saw its share decline 3.1 percentage points to 10.9%.

The data further illustrate Google's dominance in search and the problems that its rivals have in making a dent in its lead. Overall, the number of searches surged 55% to 5.07 billion. Google showed a 75% increase in search queries to 2.5 billion, Yahoo! had 1.1 billion searches, up 53%, while MSN query levels surged 20% to 553.5 million.

"The double-digit increase in online search activity marks a significant milestone in the evolution of Internet search behavior," says Ken Cassar, Nielsen/NetRatings' senior director of analytics. "Online search is the primary tool most people rely on to do everyday research."

The numbers show that Google continues to make gains at the expense of its rivals, though the company's stock price has at least paused in its flight toward the heavens.

Ten days ago the company disappointed investors with a

soft fourth quarter, sending its shares plummeting back to levels they hadn't seen since Halloween. Google stock subsequently recovered to reach $400 in the following days as bulls

thundered at the sight of a bargain-basement value but this week the selling has resumed, leaving Google at $370 in midmorning action Thursday.