The most popular websites since 1993
In the last three decades, the Internet has grown at a breathtaking pace.
In 1993, fewer than 200 websites were available on the World Wide Web. Fast forward to 2022 and that number has grown 2 trillion.
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 90’s to early 2000’s: Dial-up Internet
It was possible to use the proto-Internet as early as the 1970s, but the more user-centric and more accessible version we think of today really didn’t materialize until the early 1990s with dial-up modems.
Dial-up connection allowed users to access the Internet through a modem connected to an active phone line. In the 1990s, there were several different portals 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 almost a decade. By June 2000 the online portal was dead 400 million monthly visits. For comparison: At that time there were about 413 million Internet users worldwide.
|Monthly visits (May 2000)
But when broadband internet came along and made dialing obsolete, AOL lost its footing and a new site took the top spot – Yahoo.
Mid-2000s: Yahoo vs. Google
founded in 1994, Yahoo began as a web directory originally called “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web”.
As the company gained momentum, its name changed to Yahoo, which became a backronym standing for “Yet Another Hierarchical Official Oracle.”
Yahoo grew rapidly and by the early 2000s had become the most popular website on the web. It held its top spot for several years – by April 2004, Yahoo recorded 5.6 billion monthly visits.
|Monthly visits (April 2004)
But Google was hot on his heels. Founded in 1998, Google started out as a simpler and more efficient search engine, and the site quickly grew in importance.
Funnily enough, Google was actually Yahoo’s default search engine in the early 2000s, until Yahoo dropped Google in 2004 so it could use its own search engine technology.
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 began to go south after a series of missed opportunities and unsuccessful moves.
This cemented Google’s place at the top, and the site is still the most popular site in January 2022.
Late 2000s, early 2010s: Social media enters chat
While Google has maintained 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 had a successful run in 2007 – at one point it was the third most popular website on the World Wide Web.
|Monthly visits (January 2007)
But YouTube and Facebook marked a new era for social media platforms, partly because of their impeccable timing. Both platforms came out around the same time as smartphone innovation revolutionized the mobile industry. The design of the iPhone and the launch of the App Store in 2008 made it easier than ever to access the internet from 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 by far the leading search engine, accounting for about 90% of all web, mobile, and in-app searches.
What will be the most popular websites in a few years? Will Google keep the top spot? There’s no sign of the internet giant slowing down anytime soon, but if history has taught us anything, it’s that things are changing. And no one should make themselves too comfortable upstairs.
This article is published as part of the Visual Capitalist Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our most popular creators around the world.