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Tech Companies Top Survey of Most Influential Brands

Internet firm Google (GOOG) has again pipped Apple (AAPL) to the top spot in a global brand ranking that also sees YouTube and Wikipedia debut in the top five, a survey showed on Friday.

The annual survey by online branding magazine brandchannel.com often throws up controversial results, such as in 2004, when Arabic TV station Al Jazeera was named the world's fifth most influential brand.

This year the 3,625 branding professionals and students who voted have again surprised, awarding upstart firms star status when asked: "Which brand had the most impact on our lives in 2006?."

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Google, the Internet search engine that has expanded regionally and moved into online advertising, mail and blogging, seized the top spot for the second consecutive year, ahead of Apple Inc, which again comes in second place.

More surprisingly, video-sharing Web site YouTube, which was bought by Google in October last year, stormed into third place.

Online encyclopedia Wikipedia makes the fourth spot, pushing coffee shop behemoth Starbucks Corp. (SBUX) to fifth.

"The dramatic debut of these newcomers — YouTube in third and Wikipedia in fourth — is an indication of a larger trend — the growing impact of online brands built on user-generated contents," editor Anthony Zumpano said in a statement.

Other new brand winners were News Corp.'s (NWS) online chat site MySpace, debuting in 15th place in the North America rankings, and Al Jazeera, which advances to 19th place globally, having launched its English-language channel in November and after its drop from fifth to 25th in 2005.

The poll does not take account of economic brand value, the murky science of assigning a financial value to brand, which regularly puts Coca-Cola Co.'s (KO) Coke in first place.

Neither does it ask respondents to consider whether the brand's impact is positive or negative.

Brandchannel also split the poll by regions, and in North America the rundown was similar to the global outcome, albeit in a different order, with Apple in first place, followed by YouTube, Google, Starbucks and Wikipedia.

The top five places in the European list are from homegrown corporations, with Swedish furniture giant Ikea knocking Nokia (NOK) off the top spot and into third place. Skype, owned by eBay (EBAY), comes in second, with fast-fashion brand Zara in fourth and Adidas in fifth.

Likewise, local firms dominate the Asia-Pacific region poll with the top five places taken by Sony (SNE), Toyota (TM), HSBC (HBC), Samsung and Honda (HMC). Third-placed HSBC — formerly the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation — has Asian roots, although it is headquartered in London.

And in a refreshing change from the high-tech brands that dominate the global poll, Latin America's top two are party beverages Corona and Bacardi, with mobile phone operator Movistar in third. Sandal maker Havaianas takes fourth place and Bimbo, the world's No. 3 bread maker, comes in fifth.