People in the US use the internet for everyday research more than any other medium, a fact proven by the 55 per cent year-on-year surge in online searches in December, according to market researcher Nielsen/NetRatings.

Google remained the most popular place for Americans to search cyberspace in December.

The number of online searches in the US soared to nearly 5.1 billion in December from 3.3 billion a year earlier, despite just a slight increase in the total number of Americans connecting to the internet, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. The number of internet users in the US rose merely 3 per cent year-on-year in December to 207 million people.

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

Google not only ranked first out of approximately 60 search engines, it also widened the gap between itself and number two Yahoo by grabbing 48.8 per cent of all search traffic in December – or nearly 2.5 billion searches – up from 43.1 per cent during the same time a year earlier.

Search activity on Yahoo fell slightly to 21.4 per cent of the total, down from 21.7 per cent in December 2004. MSN saw the steepest drop-off as its share of searches fell to 10.9 per cent from 14 per cent, the analysts said.