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Animation: The Most Popular Websites by Web Traffic (1993-2022)

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The Most Popular Websites Since 1993

Over the last three decades, the internet has grown at a mind-bending pace.

In 1993, there were fewer than 200 websites available on the World Wide Web. Fast forward to 2022, and that figure has grown to 2 billion.

This animated graphic by James Eagle provides a historical look at the evolution of the internet, showing the most popular websites over the years from 1993 to 2022.

The 90s to Early 2000s: Dial-Up Internet

It was possible to go on the proto-internet as early as the 1970s, but the more user-centric and widely accessible version we think of today didn’t really materialize until the early 1990s using dial-up modems.

Dial-up gave users access to the web through a modem that was connected to an active telephone line. There were several different portals in the 1990s for internet use, such as Prodigy and CompuServe, but AOL quickly became the most popular.

AOL held its top spot as the most visited website for nearly a decade. By June 2000, the online portal was getting over 400 million monthly visits. For context, there were about 413 million internet users around the world at that time.

RankWebsiteMonthly Visits (May 2000)
1AOL400,891,812
2Yahoo387,573,587
3MSN354,239,803
4eBay116,101,785
5Lycos116,064,930

But when broadband internet hit the market and made dial-up obsolete, AOL lost its footing, and a new website took the top spot—Yahoo.

The Mid 2000s: Yahoo vs. Google

Founded in 1994, Yahoo started off as a web directory that was originally called “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web.”

When the company started to pick up steam, its name changed to Yahoo, which became a backronym that stands for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.”

Yahoo grew fast and by the early 2000s, it became the most popular website on the internet. It held its top spot for several years—by April 2004, Yahoo was receiving 5.6 billion monthly visits.

RankWebsiteMonthly Visits (April 2004)
1Yahoo5,658,032,268
2MSN1,838,700,057
3Google1,318,276,780
4AOL905,009,947
5eBay805,474,705

But Google was close on its heels. Founded in 1998, Google started out as a simpler and more efficient search engine, and the website quickly gained traction.

Funny enough, Google was actually Yahoo’s default search engine in the early 2000s until Yahoo dropped Google so it could use its own search engine technology in 2004.

For the next few years, Google and Yahoo competed fiercely, and both names took turns at the top of the most popular websites list. Then, in the 2010s, Yahoo’s trajectory started to head south after a series of missed opportunities and unsuccessful moves.

This cemented Google’s place at the top, and the website is still the most popular website as of January 2022.

The Late 2000s, Early 2010s: Social Media Enters the Chat

While Google has held its spot at the top for nearly two decades, it’s worth highlighting the emergence of social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook.

YouTube and Facebook certainly weren’t the first social media platforms to gain traction. MySpace had a successful run back in 2007—at one point, it was the third most popular website on the World Wide Web.

RankWebsiteMonthly Visits (Jan 2007)
1Google7,349,521,929
2Yahoo5,169,762,311
3MySpace1,276,515,128
4MSN1,259,467,102
5eBay957,928,554

But YouTube and Facebook marked a new era for social media platforms, partly because of their ​​impeccable timing. Both platforms entered the scene around the same time that smartphone innovations were turning the mobile phone industry on its head. The iPhone’s design, and the introduction of the App store in 2008, made it easier than ever to access the internet via your mobile device.

As of January 2022, YouTube and Facebook are still the second and third most visited websites on the internet.

The 2020s: Google is Now Synonymous With the Internet

Google is the leading search engine by far, making up about 90% of all web, mobile, and in-app searches.

What will the most popular websites be in a few years? Will Google continue to hold the top spot? There are no signs of the internet giant slowing down anytime soon, but if history has taught us anything, it’s that things change. And no one should get too comfortable at the top.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Media

Charted: America’s Most Popular News Sources

Where and how do Americans get their news—as revealed by a YouGov survey tracking the most used news sources on a weekly basis.

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This cropped graphic shows the % of Americans who use various news sources on a weekly basis.

Charted: America’s Most Popular News Sources (2024)

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

The distribution of news in the internet era has never quite been so fractured. Between competing outlets, platforms, and formats, Americans can get their news from anywhere between a TikTok video to a station newspaper.

This graphic shows the percentage of Americans who use various news sources on a weekly basis. More than 2,000 nationally representative Americans were surveyed in a 2024 YouGov survey commissioned by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

Local TV News Still Has a Foothold in America

When it comes to traditional mediums (TV, radio, and print), local TV stations are still the most frequently used by Americans (28%). Fox News (27%) comes in at a close second.

RankTV, Radio, Print% Weekly Use
1📺 Local TV news28
2🦊 Fox News27
3📺 CNN23
4🅰️ ABC News20
5📺 CBS News20
6📺 NBC/MSNBC News18
7📰 Local newspaper14
8🗽 New York Times13
9🇺🇸 USA Today12
10🌍 BBC News12
11📻 Local radio news12
12🏛️ Washington Post9
13💼 Wall Street Journal8
14🗞️ The New York Post8

Multiple choices allowed. Responses do not sum to 100.

Meanwhile, CNN ranks as the third most popular choice (23%) with ABC and CBS News (both 20%) rounding out the top five.

As a whole, TV stations fill out the top six spots with local newspapers coming in 7th (14%). The New York Times (13%) and USA Today (12%) are the only named newspaper outlets to have double-digit responses.

Fox News and CNN Battle For Online Audience

However, in the digital realm, Fox News online (18%) just about takes the crown with a 1 percentage point lead over CNN.com (17%).

RankOnline Sources% Weekly Use
1🦊 Fox News online18
2📰 CNN.com17
3🌐 Yahoo! News16
4📺 Local TV news sites16
5🗽 New York Times online15
6🇺🇸 USA Today online13
7📺 NBC/MSNBC News online11
8🏛️ Washington Post online11
9🌍 BBC News online11
10🅰️ ABC News online10
11📺 CBS News online10
12🌐 MSN News9
13💼 Wall Street Journal online9
14🗞️ New York Post online8

Multiple choices allowed. Responses do not sum to 100.

Local TV news websites and Yahoo! News tie for third place (16%). Both NYT and USA Today’s online editions perform better than their print counterparts.

In fact, the Times has been seeing declining print subscriptions for the last two years, even as online-only subscribers grow. A core component of drawing more online patrons is through bundling its many services. Games like Wordle are used as a funnel to grow digital subscriptions.

More From Visual Capitalist

If you liked this article, check out Ranked: The World’s Most Popular Apps by Downloads for a quick overview of where people are spending their time online.

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