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Facebook now beats Yahoo sites in display ads

As the social network continues to grow and open up to the public Web, its ad impressions are escalating; now, it's serving more ads to U.S. audiences than Yahoo's sites are.

Changes in display advertising impressions over the past year: Facebook is way up, Fox Interactive is way down, AOL's declined a bit, and Microsoft and Yahoo remain fairly steady.

In the U.S., more banner ads are seen on Facebook than any other site on the Web, according to new numbers released Wednesday by research firm ComScore. This, for the first time, puts the massive social network ahead of Yahoo's portfolio of sites.

Facebook's total U.S. display ad count for the first quarter of this year was 176.3 billion, according to ComScore, followed by Yahoo with 131.5 billion and Microsoft with 60.1 billion. For the first quarter of last year, Facebook had trailed Yahoo but also Fox Interactive Media (parent company of MySpace), which has since dropped from 109.3 billion impressions to 53.8 billion. Rounding out the list is AOL, which chalked up 32.1 billion impressions in the first quarter of 2010.

The catch is that Yahoo, like Microsoft, operates a massive display ad network that serves ads on other sites, too, which means that even though Facebook is slated to hit billion-dollar revenues for the first time this year, Yahoo still makes significantly more money from display ads overall. There have been persistent rumors that Facebook plans to launch an ad network of its own, especially as it looks to expand its presence even more pervasively across the Web through its "social plugins" and "instant personalization" products, but so far this has not happened.

Still, the 6-year-old Facebook has continued to grow phenomenally, with over 400 million members around the world now. Along with growth, Facebook has also opened up its gates: Not too long ago, most of its content was hidden behind a log-in wall. Now much of it, to the chagrin of some members, has been made public and indexed in search engines.

Facebook had previously served its display ads through a partnership with Microsoft, which invested $240 million in the company in 2007, but ended its advertising agreement early this year along with the announcement that it was getting rid of traditional banner ads altogether. The display ads you see on Facebook are mostly its much-touted "social ads," which often connect to other Facebook profiles or brand pages.

Then, of course, there's Google--but its gargantuan advertising profits come from search ads, not display.