The World’s Most Used Apps, by Downstream Traffic
Of the millions of apps available around the world, just a small handful of the most used apps dominate global internet traffic.
Everything connected to the internet takes bandwidth to view. When you look at something on your smartphone—whether it’s a new message on Instagram or the next few seconds of a YouTube video—your device is downloading the data in the background.
And the bigger the files, the more bandwidth is utilized. In this chart, we break down of the most used apps by category, using Sandvine’s global mobile traffic report for 2021 Q1.
Video Drives Global Mobile Internet Traffic
The biggest files use the most data, and video files take the cake.
According to Android Central, streaming video ranges from about 0.7GB per hour of data for a 480p video to 1.5GB per hour for 1080. A 4K stream, the highest resolution currently offered by most providers, uses around 7.2GB per hour.
That’s miles bigger than audio files, where high quality 320kbps music streams use an average of just 0.12GB per hour. Social network messages are usually just a few KB, while the pictures found on them can range from a few hundred KB for a low resolution image to hundreds of MB for high resolution.
Understandably, breaking down mobile downstream traffic by app category shows that video is on top by a long shot:
|Category||Downstream Traffic Share (2021 Q1)|
|VPN and Security||0.9%|
Video streaming accounts for almost half of mobile downstream traffic worldwide at 49%. Audio streaming, including music and podcasts, accounts for just 0.2%.
Comparatively, social network and web browsing combined make up one third of downstream internet traffic. Games, marketplace apps, and file sharing, despite their large file sizes, only require one-time downloads that don’t put as big of a strain on traffic as video does.
A Handful of Companies Own the Most Used Apps
Though internet traffic data is broken down by category, it’s worth noting that many apps consume multiple types of bandwidth.
For example, messaging and social network apps, like WhatsApp, Instagram, and Snapchat, allow consumers to stream video, social network, and message.
Even marketplace apps like iTunes and Google Play consume bandwidth for video and audio streaming, and together account for 6.3% of total mobile downstream traffic.
But no single app had a bigger footprint than YouTube, which accounts for 20.4% of total global downstream bandwidth.
|Category||Top Apps (Category Traffic)||Category Traffic Share|
|Video Streaming||Facebook Video||14.6%|
The world’s tech giants had the leading app in the four biggest data streaming categories. Alphabet’s YouTube and Google made up almost half of all video streaming and web browsing traffic, while Facebook’s own app, combined with Instagram and WhatsApp, accounted for 93% of global social networking traffic and 45% of messaging traffic.
Traffic usage by app highlights the data monopoly of tech giants and internet providers. Since just a few companies account for a majority of global smartphone internet traffic, they have a lot more bartering power (and responsibility) when it comes to our general internet consumption.
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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