Information technology behemoth Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) continues its steady rise from an old-guard tech company to a leader in next-gen industries, surpassing search giant Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL) in terms of total market capitalization for the first time in three years on Tuesday. (See also: Microsoft Jumps After Earnings Beat.)

The Redmond, Washington-based company is now the third-most-valuable company in the world, while Google parent company Alphabet trials behind at No. 4. Facebook Inc. (FB) and Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings follow in fifth and sixth place. 

At Tuesday close, MSFT shares were down about 0.4% at $98.01, reflecting a market value of $753.2 billion. Shares have returned 14.5% year-to-date (YTD), 40.1% over 12 months and 190% over the most recent five years. GOOGL, closing down 1.5% at $1,068.07, clocked in at the end of the day with a market cap of $739 billion. The stock has returned 1.4% YTD, 7.5% in 12 months and 145.8% over five years. By comparison, the S&P 500, which slipped 1.2% on Tuesday amid a larger market sell-off caused by political turmoil in Italy, has gained 0.6% in 2018, 11.3% in 12 months and 63.2% over five years. 

Competition Ramps Up

Microsoft and Alphabet join iPhone maker Apple Inc. (AAPL), at the No. 1 spot, and e-commerce and cloud giant Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN), in second place, in the race to become the world's first trillion-dollar company. As Big Tech puts its massive cash hoard to use, bolstered by the recent GOP-led tax overhaul, which incentivized overseas cash repatriation, industry leaders have started to encroach into each other's territories. 

While Microsoft and Google have swapped placed over the years, Alphabet has maintained a significant lead over the IT company after restructuring under the Alphabet umbrella in 2015. The two companies now head off in a number of segments such as artificial intelligence, speech recognition and cloud computing, with Microsoft's hybrid cloud platform, Azure, and Alphabet's Google Cloud. (See also: Amazon is Best Long-Term Growth Story: MKM.)