A chart published in visualcapitalist about the most popular websites over the years from 1993 to 2022 revealed that, as of January this year, YouTube and Facebook are still the second and third most visited websites on the Internet. Google is by far the leading search engine, making up about 90% of all web, mobile and in-app searches.
A new era for platforms
While Google has been at the top for nearly two decades, it’s worth highlighting the rise of social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook. Neither platform was certainly the first social media platform to gain traction, as MySpace was a hit in 2007 – at one point, it was the third most popular website on the World Wide Web. But YouTube and Facebook ushered in a new era for social media platforms, in part due to their flawless timing, as both platforms entered the scene around the same time that smartphone innovations were turning the mobile industry upside down.
The most popular sites since 1993
Over the past three decades, the Internet has grown at a mind-boggling pace. In 1993, there were fewer than 200 websites available on the World Wide Web. Fast forward to 2022, and that number has risen to two billion.
The proto-internet could have been in use as early as the 1970s, but the user-centric and widely accessible version that we believe today wasn’t really achieved until the early 1990s with dial-up modems.
Dial-up gave users access to the web through a modem connected to an active phone line. There were many different portals in the 1990s to use the Internet, such as Prodigy and CompuServe, but AOL soon became the most popular.
AOL has been the most visited site for nearly a decade. By June 2000, the portal was receiving more than 400 million monthly visits. For context, there were about 413 million Internet users around the world at that time.
But when broadband Internet hit the market and made dial-up obsolete, AOL lost ground, and a new website took the lead – Yahoo.
Yahoo vs Google
Founded in 1994, Yahoo began operating as a web directory that was originally called Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web. When the company began to gain strength, it changed its name to Yahoo, which became a back-end name for “another hierarchical oracle”. Yahoo has grown rapidly and by the early 2000s it has become the most popular website on the Internet. It held its lead for several years—by April 2004, Yahoo was receiving 5.6 billion monthly visits. But Google was close to that. Founded in 1998, Google started out as a simpler and more efficient search engine, and the website quickly gained momentum.
Google was actually Yahoo’s default search engine in the early 2000s until Yahoo dropped Google so it could use its search engine technology in 2004.
Over the next few years, Google and Yahoo competed fiercely, and both names rotated at the top of the list of the most popular sites. Then, in 2010, Yahoo’s trajectory began to head south after a series of missed opportunities and unsuccessful moves. This cemented Google’s position at the top, and the website remains the most popular site as of January 2022.