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The 20 Internet Giants That Rule the Web

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The 20 Internet Giants That Rule the Web (1998-Today)

The 20 Internet Giants That Rule the Web (1998-Today)

With each passing year, an increasingly large segment of the population no longer remembers images loading a single pixel row at a time, the earsplitting sound of a 56k modem, or the domination of web portals.

Many of the top websites in 1998 were basically news aggregators or search portals, which are easy concepts to understand. Today, brand touch-points are often spread out between devices (e.g. mobile apps vs. desktop site) and a myriad of services and sub-brands (e.g. Facebook’s constellation of apps). As a result, the world’s biggest websites are complex, interconnected web properties.

Today’s visualization, inspired by an earlier work published by WaPo, looks at which of the internet giants have evolved to stay on top, and which have faded into internet lore.

America Moves Online

For millions of curious people the late ’90s, the iconic AOL compact disc was the key that opened the door to the World Wide Web. At its peak, an estimated 35 million people accessed the internet using AOL.

By 1999, the AOL rode the Dot-com bubble to dizzying heights, with a valuation of $222 billion dollars.

AOL’s brand may not carry the caché it once did, but the brand never completely faded into obscurity. The company continually evolved, finally merging with Yahoo after Verizon acquired both of the legendary online brands. Verizon has high hopes for the company – called Oath – to evolve into a “third option” for advertisers and users who are fed up with Google and Facebook.

A City of Gifs and Web Logs

As internet usage began to reach critical mass, web hosts such as AngelFire and GeoCities made it easy for people to create a new home on the Web.

GeoCities, in particular, made a huge impact on the early internet, hosting millions of websites and giving people a way to actually participate in creating online content. If the web host was a physical place, it would’ve been the third largest city in America, just after Los Angeles.

This early online community was at risk of being erased permanently when GeoCities was finally shuttered by Yahoo in 2009, but the nonprofit Internet Archive took special efforts to create a thorough record of GeoCities-hosted pages.

From A to Z

In December of 1998, long before Amazon became the well-oiled retail machine we know today, the company was in the midst of a massive holiday season crunch.

In the real world, employees were pulling long hours and even sleeping in cars to keep the goods flowing, while online, Amazon.com had become one of the biggest sites on the internet as people began to get comfortable with the idea of purchasing goods online. Demand surged as the company began to expand their offering beyond books.

Amazon.com has grown to be the most successful merchant on the Internet.

– New York Times (1998)

Digital Magazine Rack

Meredith – with the possible exception of Oath – may be the most unrecognizable name to many people looking at today’s top 20 list. While Meredith may not be a household name, the company controls many of the country’s most popular magazine brands (People, Sports Illustrated, Health, etc.) including their sizable digital footprints. The company also has a slew of local television networks around the United States.

After its acquisition of Time Inc. in 2017, Meredith became the largest magazine publisher in the world.

“Hey, Google”

When people have burning questions, they increasingly turn to the internet for answers, but the diversity of sources for those answers is shrinking.

Even as recently as 2013, we can see that About.com, Ask.com, and Answers.com were still among the biggest websites in America. Today though, Google appears to have cemented its status as a universal wellspring of answers.

As smart speakers and voice assistants continue penetrate the market and influence search behavior, Google is unlikely to face any near-term competition from any company not already in the top 20 list.

New Kids on the Block

Social media has long since outgrown its fad stage and is now a common digital thread connecting people across the world. While Facebook rapidly jumped into the top 20 by 2007, other social media infused brands took longer to grow into internet giants.

In 2018, Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook’s umbrella of platforms were are all in the top 20, with LinkedIn and Pinterest not far behind.

NOTE: This ranking uses ComScore data which is focused on the U.S. and looks at unique visitors/viewers.

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Ranked: The World’s Most Downloaded Apps

The app economy is expected to be over $6 trillion by 2021—see the world’s most downloaded apps and how they’re driving the future of this market.

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Ranked: The World’s Most Downloaded Apps

From strategically finding love, to helping researchers search for extraterrestrial life—there is quite literally an app for almost anything these days.

It is therefore no surprise that apps have become one of the largest consumer ecosystems on the planet, with the global app economy expected to reach $6.3 trillion by 2021.

Today’s graphics pull data from a recent report by Sensor Tower that ranks the top 20 most downloaded apps of 2019. New entrants are rising up and threatening the dominance of more established tech companies—but can they sustain their current position on the leaderboard?

The Champions of the App Economy

According to the report, total app downloads grew to 115 billion in 2019, including almost 31 billion downloads on the App Store and 84 billion on Google Play.

Social media giant Facebook owns four out of five of 2019’s most downloaded apps: Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram. Collectively, they boast an eye-watering 16 billion downloads—with WhatsApp holding the top spot for the fourth year running.

Growth in the short-form video category is apparent. The video creation app Likee joined this year’s ranking and sits in sixth place, with the majority of the app’s 330 million downloads coming from India.

The app lets users edit videos using a wide variety of effects, and directly competes with TikTok—a lip syncing app that entered the ranking in 2018 and now threatens WhatsApp’s position at the top of the leaderboard.

Which Apps Are Climbing the Ranks?

TikTok is the newest platform to turn its users into viral sensations, grossing $177 million in 2019. This is equal to more than five times its 2018 revenue. TikTok also bypassed Instagram in 2018, breaking Facebook’s foothold on the top four apps globally.

Most downloaded apps rank

TikTok is owned by Chinese tech firm ByteDance, the most valuable private company in the world—and 78% of TikTok’s total Q4’2019 revenue came from its native country.

Aside from several short-form video entrants, new players from other industries continue to storm up the ranks. While they don’t make the list of most downloaded apps yet, their recent success could change that.

Streaming Services

Netflix is the only streaming service to make it into the top 20 most downloaded apps, but the launch of Disney+ could potentially change that.

Despite a November launch, Disney+ became the second most popular new app of 2019. Within a month, the service generated $50 million in revenue.

To put this into context, Disney+ acquired 34% of all streaming app downloads in less than three months, or 30 million subscribers—half of Netflix’s current 60 million U.S. subscribers. That figure also surpasses Hulu and Amazon Prime’s figures for the entirety of 2019.

Gaming

With 2.4 billion people playing mobile games in 2019, gaming is also set to become a major player in the app economy.

Two popular console franchises, Call of Duty and Mario Kart, recently entered the mobile market to become two of the most successful games in the category.

The free mobile version of Call of Duty had the second best quarter of any mobile game ever, with 170 million worldwide downloads. Only Pokémon GO had a better quarter, with more than 300 million installs when it launched in 2016.

The success of these apps can be attributed to their already established consumer base, and the evident shift in more gamers moving to mobile platforms as smartphone technology and processing speeds improve.

Countries Leading the App Economy

The app economy is also being fueled by growth in emerging markets including China, India, Brazil and Russia, thanks to faster internet speeds and increasing smartphone adoption rates.

Specifically, India’s increasing digitization is driving significant growth in the market. The country witnessed nearly 5 billion app installs in the last quarter of 2019—surging ahead of the U.S. with just over 3 billion installs.

app downloads by country
Note: As Google Play is not available in China, the country was excluded from this chart.

India’s demand could be attributed to the fact that half of its 1.3 billion population is under the age of 25. A younger, tech savvy audience has resulted in India becoming TikTok’s top market, commanding 45% of the app’s first time downloads in 2019.

The App Economy 2.0

With an explosion in user spending, and seemingly endless opportunities for innovation, the global app economy shows a tremendous amount of promise, but is still in its early days.

Consumers spent $101 billion on apps globally in 2018. This is double the size of the global sneaker market, and nearly three times the size of the oral care industry.

—Danielle Levitas, EVP of Global Marketing & Market Insights at App Annie

Rising consumer spend combined with other forms of monetization, such as advertising and mobile commerce, could soon enable the app market to surpass the trillion dollar barrier in revenue.

While many experts claimed that the app industry was dead in its tracks, it’s safe to say that those predictions are now being irrefutably challenged.

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Cars

Tesla’s Valuation Surpasses Ford and GM Combined

Tesla is not only the top valued U.S. automaker, it’s now worth more than Ford and GM combined. Will the rally continue, or will short sellers win the day?

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telsa gm ford valuation

Chart: Tesla is Worth More than Ford and GM Combined

Tesla has been on a roller coaster ride of market sentiment in recent years, but the electric car company is starting off the new decade on a high note.

The company is not only America’s most valuable automaker, it’s now worth more than Ford and GM combined.

tesla ford gm market caps

Tesla’s valuation has already surpassed the $100 billion mark – a significant milestone for a company that produces a fraction of the vehicles of its direct competitors.

Here’s a comparison of the top selling models in the U.S. for Ford, GM, and Tesla.

RankModelUnit Sales (Q4 2019)
1Ford F-Series233,952
2Chevrolet Silverado163,311
3Chevrolet Equinox92,092
4GMC Sierra68,722
5Ford Explorer51,284
6Ford Escape47,587
7Tesla Model 347,275
8Ford Edge37,621
9Ford Transit36,885
10Chevrolet Malibu34,314

A quick glance at this list is revealing. Though Tesla’s Model 3 put up strong sales numbers, it’s still only a small percentage of vehicles sold by U.S. automakers.

So, what’s driving Tesla’s meteoric growth, and is it sustainable? Below, we’ll take a high-level look at the bull and bear cases for the company.

The Bull Case for Tesla Motors

Tesla posted losses of $1.1 billion in the first half of 2019, but since then, the company has turned the situation around in dramatic fashion.

The automaker had a surprising third quarter with not only record deliveries of 97,000 cars, but also a profit of $143 million. Deliveries broke yet another record in Q4 2019, totaling 112,000 vehicles. These announcements helped improve market sentiment, sending the company’s stock back on an upward trajectory heading into 2020.

tesla bull quotes

Here are three reasons some analysts and media are still bullish on Tesla:

1. Tapping into the World’s Largest Electric Car Market

For a long time, foreign companies looking to manufacture products in China couldn’t do so without working through a domestic partner. Recently though, Tesla became the first major benefactor of a policy change, becoming the first wholly foreign-owned automaker in China.

Gigafactory 3 in Shanghai was completed in October, and was built in just 10 months – an impressive feat. Furthermore, cars have already begun rolling off the assembly lines, as Tesla targets an annual production of 150,000 Model 3s.

Perhaps the best part for a company with historically volatile earnings: Tesla claims the facility was 65% cheaper to build than its production plant in the U.S.

2. Still the Range King

2019 saw many of the more established automakers take their first swings at Tesla.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) handed out official range ratings for several new electric cars, but none could unseat the king:

ev range ratings

3. Musk’s Megaphone

Few CEOs capture the attention of media quite like Elon Musk. While his actions can sometimes have unintended consequences for the company – the infamous “funding secured” tweet, for example – Elon Musk’s massive reach allows the company to sell vehicles without spending a dime on advertising.

By contrast, in 2018, Ford and GM spent $2.3 billion and $3.1 billion respectively on advertising in the U.S. alone.

The Bear Case for Tesla Motors

While the second half of 2019 has given Tesla bulls much to celebrate, many investors are remaining vigilant, if not skeptical.

tesla bear quotes

1. Stiff Competition in China

Tapping into the world’s largest EV market is a double-edged sword for Tesla, as they face an onslaught of domestic and foreign competitors.

The Chinese government has also generously supported its own EV industry, handing out over $60 billion in subsidies to over 400 companies. Tesla will be competing against state-owned enterprises like BAIC, one of the largest players in the Chinese EV market.

Western automakers are also gaining a foothold in China as well. Volkswagen and its Chinese joint-venture partner, SAIC Motor, will begin producing cars at two factories in China in the autumn of 2020.

The German automotive giant has also forged partnerships with Chinese battery manufacturers, including China’s biggest battery company Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL).

2. Getting Ratio’d

Tesla has an extremely high premium on earnings when compared with its more established counterparts in the auto industry.

CompanyTickerEnterprise Multiple* (last 12 months)
ToyotaNYSE: TM8.4x
GMNYSE: GM10.0x
FordNYSE: F14.5x
TeslaNASDAQ: TSLA50.2x

The enterprise multiple (EV/EBITDA) measures the dollars in enterprise value for each dollar of earnings. The ratio is commonly used to determine if a company is undervalued or overvalued compared to peers.

The Bottom Line is… the Bottom Line

Of course, Tesla’s future will be dictated by variables more complex than can be summed up in a tidy pro/con list.

Musk has shown a willingness to sacrifice profitability in the name of growth – Tesla has yet to prove it can deliver consistent, quarterly profits.

It’s hard to be profitable with that level of growth. We could slow it down, but then that would not be good for sustainability and the cause of electric vehicles.

– Elon Musk

After reporting a record number of deliveries in the final quarter of 2019, there’s no doubt that true believers and short sellers alike will be watching the company’s January 29, 2020, earnings call with much anticipation.

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