Ranked: The World's Most Downloaded Apps in 2019
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Ranked: The World’s Most Downloaded Apps

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most downloaded apps

Note: Estimates include unique installs on iPhone, iPad, and Google Play from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2019. Pre-installed apps for Apple and Google are excluded.

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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How Big Tech Revenue and Profit Breaks Down, by Company

How do the big tech giants make their money? This series of graphics shows a breakdown of big tech revenue, using Q2 2022 income statements.

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In the media and public discourse, companies like Alphabet, Apple, and Microsoft are often lumped together into the same “Big Tech” category. After all, they constitute the world’s largest companies by market capitalization.

And because of this, it’s easy to assume they’re in direct competition with each other, fiercely battling for a bigger piece of the “Big Tech” pie. But while there is certainly competition between the world’s tech giants, it’s a lot less drastic than you might imagine.

This is apparent when you look into their various revenue streams, and this series of graphics by Truman Du provides a revenue breakdown of Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft.

How Big Tech Companies Generate Revenue

So how does each big tech firm make money? Let’s explore using data from each company’s June 2022 quarterly income statements.

Alphabet

breakdown of Alphabet's revenue streams and profit

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In Q2 2022, about 72% of Alphabet’s revenue came from search advertising. This makes sense considering Google and YouTube get a lot of eyeballs. Google dominates the search market—about 90% of all internet searches are done on Google platforms.

Amazon

breakdown of amazon's revenue streams and profit

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, Amazon’s biggest revenue driver is e-commerce. However, as the graphic above shows, the costs of e-commerce are so steep, that it actually reported a net loss in Q2 2022.

As it often is, Amazon Web Services (AWS) was the company’s main profit-earner this quarter.

Apple

breakdown of Apple's revenue streams and profit

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Apple’s biggest revenue driver is consumer electronics sales, particularly from the iPhone which accounts for nearly half of overall revenue. iPhones are particularly popular in the U.S., where they make up around 50% of smartphone sales across the country.

Besides devices, services like Apple Music, Apple Pay, and Apple TV+ also generate revenue for the company. But in Q2 2022, Apple’s services branch accounted for only 24% of the company’s overall revenue.

Microsoft

breakdown of Microsoft's revenue streams and profit

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Microsoft has a fairly even split between its various revenue sources, but similarly to Amazon its biggest revenue driver is its cloud services platform, Azure.

After AWS, Azure is the second largest cloud server in the world, capturing 21% of the global cloud infrastructure market.

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

This video shows the evolution of the internet, highlighting the most popular websites from 1993 until 2022.

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ranking websites by page views 1993-2022

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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