The most popular websites since 1993
Over the past three decades, the Internet has grown at a breakneck pace.
In 1993, there were less than 200 websites available on the World Wide Web. Fast forward to 2022, and that number has grown to 2 billion.
This animated graphic by James Eagle provides a historical overview of the Internet’s evolution, showing the most popular websites over the years, from 1993 to 2022.
1990s to early 2000s: Dial-up Internet
It was possible to go to 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 allowed users to access the web through a modem connected to an active phone line. There were several different portals in the 1990s for using the Internet, such as Prodigy and CompuServe, but AOL quickly became the most popular.
AOL held its top spot as the most visited website for almost a decade. In June 2000, the online portal was outdated 400 million monthly visits. For context, there were approximately 413 million internet users worldwide at that time.
|Rank||Website||Monthly visits (May 2000)|
|1||AOL||400 891 812|
|2||yahoo||387 573 587|
|3||msn||354 239 803|
|4||eBay||116 101 785|
But when high-speed 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 versus Google
Founded in 1994, Yahoo began as a web directory originally called “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web”.
When the company started to grow, its name was changed to Yahoo, which became a backronym that stands for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle”.
Yahoo grew rapidly and in the early 2000s became the most popular website on the Internet. It held its number one spot for several years – in April 2004, Yahoo received 5.6 billion monthly visits.
|Rank||Website||Monthly visits (April 2004)|
|2||msn||1 838 700 057|
|4||AOL||905 009 947|
|5||eBay||805 474 705|
But Google was hot 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.
Over the next few years, Google and Yahoo clashed fiercely, and the two names took turns at the top of the list of most popular websites. Then, in the 2010s, Yahoo’s trajectory began heading 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 in January 2022.
Late 2000s, early 2010s: Social media enters chat
While Google has held its place at the top for nearly two decades, it’s worth noting the emergence of social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook.
YouTube and Facebook were certainly not the first social media platforms to gain traction. MySpace hit the big time in 2007 – at one point it was the third most popular website on the World Wide Web.
|Rank||Website||Monthly visits (January 2007)|
|5||eBay||957 928 554|
But YouTube and Facebook marked a new era for social media platforms, in part because of their impeccable timing. Both platforms came into the picture around the same time when smartphone innovations were shaking up the mobile phone industry. The design of the iPhone and the introduction of the App Store in 2008 made it easier than ever to access the Internet through your mobile device.
In January 2022, YouTube and Facebook were still the second and third most visited websites on the Internet.
The 2020s: Google is now synonymous with the internet
Google is by far the number one search engine, accounting for around 90% of all web, mobile and app searches.
What will be the most popular websites in a few years? Will Google continue to hold the top spot? There are no signs of an imminent downturn from the internet giant, but if history has taught us anything, it’s that things are changing. And no one should be too comfortable at the top.
This article was published as part of Visual Capitalist’s Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite creators from around the world.