Most popular Web sites

I am sure that you, like me, make extensive use of the Web [otherwise you probably would not be reading this – doh!]. I access numerous websites on a given day, but there are, of course, a handful that I utilize all the time – maybe multiple times a day. As I have been using the Web for just about 20 years now, I have observed some interesting changes in what is available, how it is used and what I access myself …

I started thinking about this when I came across this infographic [Now, there is a word that I do not think we used back in the 1990s. Even though it has been in use as an adjective since the 1960s, I cannot find a reliable reference to its first use as a noun. A rare example of the Web letting me down.], which shows the top 20 websites each year since 1996. It makes interesting reading.

So, how does my behavior compare with these charts? The sites, that I use all the time, are:

  • Google [obviously – for email, calendar, maps and life]
  • Yahoo [almost exclusively for email nowadays]
  • BBC [for news and weather]
  • Amazon
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Wikipedia
  • Guardian newspaper

Of course, there are a few personal/local sites which are very specific to me: my camera club, bank, local theater, my employers, local newspaper, etc.

Comparing this with the infographic for 2013 and I appear reasonably “average”. I find it surprising that Yahoo is at the top, above Google. What do people use Yahoo for nowadays? I almost never use Microsoft’s website – I wonder if it gets pushed up by automatic Windows update downloads. Or does the site have things to offer that I am unaware of? I have no idea what AOL offer. And people still use Ask? The odd thing is a few sites have names that are totally unfamiliar to me: Glam Media, Turner, Gannett; I guess media companies have lots of brands and they might make sense.

Go back [what seems] just a few years to 2000 and the world is mostly different. AOL are top of the stack – I guess dial-up was still in wide use then. Yahoo are still riding high, but Google have yet to appear. That was the last year that Altavista [my search engine of choice at the time] appeared; Google showed up in 2001 and I suppose they ate their lunch.

Right back at “the beginning” in 1996, I see lots of names that are unfamiliar. AOL and Yahoo are right near the top, along with some blasts from the past like Netscape. Interestingly, Microsoft are not yet on the scene, but appear with a vengeance the following year.

Overall, the chart is an interesting historical perspective. Two particular things caught my attention. First, there are a couple of names that have been consistently near the top: AOL and Yahoo. These are both companies that are perceived to be in decline, but these figures suggest that reports of their deaths may have been exaggerated. It is also interesting that we are often told that the biggest use of Internet bandwidth is pornography. If that were the case, would we not expect it to be reflected here? The only remotely porn-oriented site that I can spot is Penthouse back in 1996.

I look forward to seeing a future version of this chart in, say, 2020. I cannot imagine how it will have changed.

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