We wrote earlier this morning that Google and Microsoft were competing for a stake in Facebook, the super-hot social networking platform. Earlier, the NY Post was reporting that Google was the frontrunner. But a WSJ report has now confirmed that Microsoft won out:

"Microsoft Corp. agreed to invest $240 million for a minority stake in Facebook Inc. that values the social-networking site at $15 billion. As part of the deal, the two companies expanded their advertising agreement."

The amount invested is lower than expectations, which were around $500M. Microsoft's new deal with Facebook is all about bolstering their existing advertising arrangement - Microsoft will now sell Facebook's international display ads, in addition to the banner ads it already sells on the US site. However this deal leaves room for Facebook to run its own advertising network, which we have been discussing on Read/WriteWeb. Facebook's ad system will likely use social profiling to target ads, given the wealth of such data that Facebook has.

UPDATE: Hitwise just sent this data, which shows Facebook's growth in the US market over the past year:

  • Facebook.com was the ninth most visited website (as ranked by Hitwise) in the U.S. receiving .96% of all Internet visits for the week ending 10/20/07.
  • U.S. traffic to Facebook.com has increased 102% YOY comparing the week ending 10/20/07 versus 10/21/06.
  • Among a custom category of leading social networking websites, Facebook.com received 15% of U.S. visits for the week ending 10/20/07. That was second most among social networking websites behind MySpace.com, who received 76%. Windows Live Spaces received .40% for the same week.
  • Facebook.com received '9.90%' of its U.S. traffic from Search Engines for the week ending 10/20/2007. Of that traffic, MSN Search and Live Search combined for .46% to Facebook.com last week. Google sent 6.82% percent of U.S. traffic while Yahoo! Search send 1.34% of traffic for the week ending 10/20/07.
  • U.S visits for Facebook.com among users ages 35 and over have increased 19% comparing the week ending 10/20/07 versus 10/21/06.