The Most Popular Websites Since 1993
The internet has become an increasingly important part of our everyday lives.
While it’s hard to imagine modern life without Google or YouTube, it’s interesting to reflect on how much the web has changed over the last few decades.
This animation by Captain Gizmo provides a historical rundown of the most popular websites since 1993, showing how much the internet has evolved since the early ’90s.
The Top Websites
While the web has changed drastically over the years, the top-ranking websites have remained relatively consistent. Here’s a look at the websites with the most traffic since 1993, and when each site held the number one spot:
|Date Range||Top Ranking Website||Highest Number of Monthly Visits|
|Jan 1993 - Jun 2000||AOL||405,000,000
|Jul 2000 - May 2006||Yahoo||5,500,000,000
|Jun 2006 - Jul 2008||8,300,000,000
|Aug 2008 - Jun 2010||Yahoo||11,600,000,000
|Jul 2010 - current||81,000,000,000
*Note: Numbers rounded for clarity.
AOL was one of the first major web portals, back in the era of CD-ROMs and dial-up modems. In its heyday, the company dominated the market, largely due to an aggressive free trial campaign that cost millions (possibly even billions) of dollars to execute.
Despite the large investment, the campaign worked—at its peak, AOL had over 30 million users, and a market cap of over $200 billion. It was the most popular website online until the early 2000s, when broadband started to replace dial-up. As the sands shifted, AOL struggled to stay relevant and was eventually sold to Verizon for just $4.4 billion.
Following AOL’s downfall, Yahoo became the next internet giant.
Starting off as a web directory, Yahoo was the first website to offer localized indexes for major cities. At Yahoo’s zenith, it was worth $125 billion, but a series of missed opportunities and failed acquisitions meant that it could not keep up. Like AOL, Yahoo is now also owned by Verizon, but remains a top 10 website globally.
It’s no surprise that Google currently comes in at number one. It started out in the early ’90s as a university research project. Today, it’s become virtually synonymous with the internet, which makes sense, considering 90% of all internet searches are made on Google-owned properties.
Old School Search Engines
Prior to Google’s success, there were several other go-to search engines that paved the way for Google in many ways:
- WebCrawler: One of the earlier search engines, WebCrawler was the first search engine to enable full-text search. At one point, the website was so popular, it’s server would constantly crash, making it virtually unusable during peak hours.
- Lycos: This was another pivotal search engine, created in 1994 (a year before Yahoo). Lycos was the first of its kind to incorporate relevance retrieval, prefix matching, and word proximity.
- Infoseek: As Netscape’s default search engine, Infoseek was popular during the web browser’s heyday. Eventually, Infoseek was purchased by Disney and rebranded to go.com.
Unlike Infoseek, Lycos and WebCrawler have somehow managed to stick around—both companies still exist today. Of course, they’re nowhere near comparable to Google in terms of revenue or daily search volume.
The Evolution of Social Media
Unless you are a Gen Zer, you probably remember MySpace. Like Lycos and WebCrawler, MySpace technically still exists, although it’s certainly not the high traffic site it used to be.
Created in 2004, MySpace became a hub for musicians and music fans on the web. In just a year, the website saw massive growth, and by 2005, it was acquired by News Corp. MySpace continued to dominate the social media landscape until 2008, when Facebook took over as the internet’s most popular social media platform.
Facebook’s story is well-known at this point. The Zuckerberg-led creation was a social networking site that was exclusive to Harvard students, but it soon opened up to dozens of other universities and then finally the general public in 2006. Just two years later, and the site had 100 million active users, rising to the top of the social media spectrum.
Although Facebook often finds itself mired in controversy today, the site remains the world’s most popular social media platform on the internet with close to 3 billion users.
It’s hard to predict what the future holds for Facebook, or for any of the other websites currently dominating the web.
If anything is clear from the above animation, it’s that the list of the world’s most popular websites is constantly shifting—and only time will tell what the next few decades will bring.
Ranked: The Top 50 Most Visited Websites in the World
In this visualization, we rank the top 50 websites that receive the most internet traffic, from Google to CNN.
Ranked: The Top 50 Most Visited Websites in the World
Estimates vary, but there are upwards of two billion websites in existence in 2023.
If we were to rank all of these websites according to their traffic numbers, we would see a classic power law distribution. At the low end, the vast majority of these websites would be inactive, receiving little to no traffic. On the upper end of the ranking though, a handful of websites receive the lion’s share of internet traffic.
This visualization, using data from SimilarWeb, takes a look at the 50 websites that currently sit at the top of the ranking.
Which Websites Get the Most Traffic?
Topping the list of most-visited websites in the world is, of course, Google. With over 3.5 billion searches per day, Google has cemented its position as the go-to source for information on the internet. But Google’s dominance doesn’t stop there. The company also owns YouTube, the second-most popular website in the world. Together, Google and YouTube have more traffic than the next 48 websites combined.
The power of YouTube, in particular, is sometimes not fully understood. The video platform is the second largest search engine in the world after Google. As well, YouTube has the second highest duration-of-visit numbers in this top 50 ranking. (First place goes to the Chinese video sharing website, Bilibili.)
But Google and YouTube aren’t the only big players on the internet. Other websites in the top 50 ranking include social media giants Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. In particular, TikTok has seen a surge in popularity in recent years and is now one of the most popular social media platforms in the world.
Here’s the full top 50 ranking table form:
|#1||google.com||85.1B||Search Engines||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#2||youtube.com||33.0B||Streaming & Online TV||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#3||facebook.com||17.8B||Social Media Networks||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#4||twitter.com||6.8B||Social Media Networks||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#5||instagram.com||6.1B||Social Media Networks||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#6||baidu.com||5.0B||Search Engines||🇨🇳 China|
|#7||wikipedia.org||4.8B||Dictionaries & Encyclopedias||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#8||yandex.ru||3.4B||Search Engines||🇷🇺 Russia|
|#9||yahoo.com||3.3B||News & Media Publishers||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#10||whatsapp.com||2.9B||Social Media Networks||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#16||yahoo.co.jp||2.1B||News & Media Publishers||🇯🇵 Japan|
|#17||netflix.com||2.0B||Streaming & Online TV||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#18||tiktok.com||1.8B||Social Media Networks||🇨🇳 China|
|#20||reddit.com||1.7B||Social Media Networks||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#21||office.com||1.6B||Prog. & Developer Software||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#22||linkedin.com||1.6B||Social Media Networks||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#23||dzen.ru||1.4B||Faith & Beliefs||🇷🇺 Russia|
|#24||samsung.com||1.4B||Consumer Electronics||🇰🇷 S. Korea|
|#25||vk.com||1.4B||Social Media Networks||🇷🇺 Russia|
|#27||turbopages.org||1.3B||News & Media Publishers||🇷🇺 Russia|
|#29||naver.com||1.2B||News & Media Publishers||🇰🇷 S. Korea|
|#30||bing.com||1.2B||Search Engines||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#31||microsoftonline.com||1.1B||Prog. & Developer Software||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#32||discord.com||1.1B||Social Media Networks||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#33||twitch.tv||1.1B||Gaming & Accessories||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#34||bilibili.com||1.0B||Animations & Comics||🇨🇳 China|
|#35||pinterest.com||1.0B||Social Media Networks||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#36||zoom.us||985.9M||Computers Electronics & Tech||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#38||qq.com||907.1M||News & Media Publishers||🇨🇳 China|
|#39||microsoft.com||902.3M||Prog. & Developer Software||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#40||msn.com||870.8M||News & Media Publishers||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#41||globo.com||840.1M||News & Media Publishers||🇧🇷 Brazil|
|#42||duckduckgo.com||839.0M||Search Engines||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#43||roblox.com||795.7M||Gaming & Accessories||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#44||quora.com||775.9M||Dictionaries & Encyclopedias||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#45||news.yahoo.co.jp||749.1M||News & Media Publishers||🇯🇵 Japan|
|#47||aajtak.in||724.1M||News & Media Publishers||🇮🇳 India|
|#48||nytimes.com||702.2M||News & Media Publishers||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#50||cnn.com||684.9M||News & Media Publishers||🇺🇸 U.S.|
Notable companies that have fallen out of the top 50 since our last version of this visualization are Walmart and PayPal. Notable entrants into the top 50 are Samsung and the New York Times.
The Geography of the 50 Most-Visited Websites
The United States is still home base for many of the world’s biggest websites, taking up 30 spots on this ranking. Of these 30 websites, half are operated by Big Tech companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet, Meta, and Netflix.
Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea round out the top five.
Things get interesting in the “other” category, which includes six websites. Two spots are taken up by Aaj Tak and Globo, which are large media publications in India and Brazil, respectively.
The remaining four websites—XVideos, PornHub, XHamster, and XNXX—specialize in adult content, and are located in a variety of countries. These are often referred to as “tube sites” since they are built on the YouTube model.
Realsrv, the only adult-oriented site in the top 50 located in the U.S., is interesting to delve into as well, since it’s far from a household name. The website essentially supports advertising efforts by redirecting users away from the content they were viewing over to another page (generally premium adult content). This is one of the key ways that adult websites earn revenue.
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