YouTube is the most visited video website, attracting almost half of all visitors and towering over giants like Google, Yahoo, AOL and Microsoft's MSN, according to Hitwise.

For the week ending May 20, YouTube, founded in January 2005, nabbed almost 43 per cent of all visits to video websites, while the video section of came in second with 24.2 per cent, the market researcher said.

The video search engines of Yahoo (9.6 per cent), MSN (9.2 per cent), Google (6.5 per cent) and AOL (4.3 per cent) followed. Rounding out the top ten were iFilm, Grouper Networks, and Custom One Media's

Collectively, traffic to the top ten video websites has increased 164 per cent in the past three months, New York-based Hitwise said.

For many years, online video remained an unfulfilled promise, hampered by high broadband prices, inferior image quality and reluctance by TV networks and film companies to put their shows and movies on the web.

However, in the past year, video on the web has gained momentum, helped by a critical mass of users with broadband access, improved quality and an embrace by production companies to distribute their films and programs online.