According to the latest data from (French) Mediametrie* from April 2013, you have to go all the way down to the 7th most visited site to find French ownership. Where you are of course right in your initial assumption is that all the contents consumed on those first 6 sites (as well as all the rest) are French language and contents about and created by people living in France.
The number one destination is Google — the all-American giant which for a long time has had a very large part of its revenue come from Europe thanks to its domination in almost all markets in the region — with 40.5 million unique visitors in April 2013, according to Médiamétrie (see illustration below). This equates to a search market share in France above the 90% mark and is thus much higher than in Google’s home country.
So although this is an American company, pretty much all the sites indexed in Google.fr are French or, at the very least, French language. However, meanwhile Google has grown into a household name in France, friction has emerged around Tax issues where the French government finds Google’s tax contribution in France too low, not to mention that the press has been a bit on their edge concerning Intellectual Property issues. The new French Google headquarters in Paris was, however, inaugurated by former President Sarkozy and Eric Schmidt with maximum press coverage.
In a relatively distant second comes Facebook (+30 million monthly unique visitors), just ahead of Google-owned YouTube. And whereas Facebook does not have any French local competitor, it is worth mentioning that Dailymotion, the French version of YouTube, only appears in an 18th position.
The 4th most visited destination is a surprising figure! The Microsoft site itself is not really a destination site, although it is very broad and has many entry points. It is not even the starting page for the Internet Explorer, but perhaps some of the Windows applications are making automatic calls to the website being counted as unique visitors, for example in the Windows Update or the driver searches.
The 5th position makes more sense as it is the MSN portal and the Live mail services. The MSN portal is a destination site as well as a start page for Internet Explorer and all the “Messenger” activity would be included in this count.
6th position, amazingly, Wikipedia a couple of positions behind Microsoft. Do the French care more about software than about knowledge? Hardly…
And finally, as the 7th most important site, the first French website, the “Orange” portal which is the France Telecom ISP homepage where Orange users are automatically directed when they connect to the internet with their default settings.
In the next positions we find more French sites. The following three are probably not very well known internationally, so let us have a brief look at these:
8. Leboncoin – 17.3 million unique visitors in April. This site is a bit like a mix of Craigs list and eBay. Very simple and efficient Classifieds site.
9. Pages Jaunes – 16.7 million unique visitors in April. I am quite amazed that the French Yellow Pages are so high in the listings. I did not think they would be able to hang on to their audience on the Internet. I would expect them to be on slipping grounds with the intensive advertising-based business model and outdated and expensive media supports. The reverse number look-up service is probable one of the good ingredients and it will be interesting to see how this audience evolves in the future.
10. Free – 16.6 million unique visitors in April. Free is another French ISP and although its service is not free, the company has had an important impact on the cost of internet access as well as mobile phone costs. Again, a webpage which is not really a destination site and perhaps there is a technical explanation of the high traffic count. The default starting page and perhaps the web-based hotline.
Many of the more interesting e-commerce and destination sites come in the list of followers. Let’s have a quick look at the list:
11. Yahoo! – Portal
12. Amazon – E-commerce
13. Skype… well, Skype
14. SFR – One of the biggest tele-communications providers, direct competitor to Orange and Free
15. Blogger – international blog platform
16. auFeminin – a women’s portal
17. Overblog – French blog platform
18. Dailymotion – French Youtube competitor
19. Apple – No need for explanation
20. Linternaute – a content/community site
21. CommentCaMarche – literally “how does it work”. A huge forum/user-generated content site
So, perhaps what these figures tell us about French online behaviour is:
- Search: The French have adopted Search as the way to navigate the web
- Social: On the Internet, Social means Facebook (offline Social means Café)
- Technological gap: “How do I change my default start page?” It is obvious that a lot of the high audiences come from the ISP or browser starting page. These are almost forced visits and would disappear if people changed their default start page more easily.
- Knowledge: Wikipedia (in French) leads the way, Linternaute and Commencamarche or on the top list.
- Classifieds, e-commerce and some specialized community sites have become common-day places to go.
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