Most Popular Websites 1995–2005

I was there. At the beginning of the digital age. The introduction of the internet to the mainstream public. I saw the rise and fall of MySpace, the first steps of Facebook, how Apple went from bankruptcy to being the most valuable company in the world. Heck, I even witnessed the launch of a tiny project called Google Search. The internet made all this possible. Oh, how it has changed in 3 decades. Take a trip down memory lane with me and revisit the most popular websites from 1995 to 2005.


A brief history of the WWW

The predecessor of the internet — called Arpanet — was introduced in 1969 as a way to connect US universities with each other. During the 70s one of the most common usages was e-mail. In 1990, the US National Science Foundation decided to make the internet available to the public. In 1993, usage exploded with the introduction of the first graphics-based web browser Mosaic. Two driving forces behind the commercial success of the WWW in the 90s were AOL and Yahoo.


The world of the internet from 1995–2000

Let’s begin our journey in 1995 — more than 25 years ago. The WWW was widely established, big companies had their own websites, monthly visits climbed rapidly. In the latter half of the 90s, we witnessed the birth of websites like Google, MSN, and eBay. I love numbers, so let’s take a look at the top 5 websites (by monthly visits) from 1995–2005.

P.S.: Every link leads you to the actual website from that year in history. Made possible through the wonderful project theoldnet.com. The sites take a bit to load but it’s worth the wait.

1995

  1. AOL | Monthly visits: 38–39 million
  2. Yahoo | Monthly visits: 33–34 million
  3. Geocities | Monthly visits: 17–18 million
  4. Netscape | Monthly visits: 15–16 million
  5. Webcrawler | Monthly visits: 10–15 million
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Screenshot of aol.com 1995 from theoldnet.com

1996

  1. AOL | Monthly visits: 43–118 million
  2. Yahoo | Monthly visits: 35–64 million
  3. Geocities | Monthly visits: 18–25 million
  4. Lycos | Monthly visits: 17–21 million
  5. Excite | Monthly visits: 13–19 million

1997

  1. AOL | Monthly visits: 124–201 million
  2. Yahoo | Monthly visits: 66–34 million
  3. MSN | Monthly visits: 21–68 million
  4. Excite | Monthly visits: 24–45 million
  5. Geocities | Monthly visits: 29–43 million

1998

  1. AOL | Monthly visits: 207–285 million
  2. MSN | Monthly visits: 73–171 million
  3. Yahoo | Monthly visits: 122–164 million
  4. Lycos | Monthly visits: 42–82million
  5. Excite | Monthly visits: 46–54 million

1999

  1. AOL | Monthly visits: 289–366 million
  2. MSN | Monthly visits: 176–315 million
  3. Yahoo | Monthly visits: 166–224 million
  4. Lycos | Monthly visits: 84–102 million
  5. About.com | Monthly visits: 91 million

2000

  1. Yahoo | Monthly visits: 231–611 million
  2. AOL | Monthly visits: 368–447 million
  3. MSN | Monthly visits: 319–403 million
  4. eBay | Monthly visits: 83–162 million
  5. BBC | Monthly visits: 51–140 million
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Screenshot of yahoo.com 2000 from theoldnet.com

The new millennium

The year 2000 not only marked the beginning of the new millennium, but it also introduced a new era of the World Wide Web, of web design — both good and bad — like the first resizable (or rather resizing) web interfaces and ad banners. Furthermore, the first half of the 2000s marked the beginnings of web giants like Wikipedia, Facebook, and MySpace. Some of which remain at the top today, others are almost forgotten. For the first time in history, monthly visits crossed 1 billion. A milestone that pales in comparison to present usage.

2001

  1. Yahoo | Monthly visits: 630 million–1.6 billion
  2. MSN | Monthly visits: 407–594 million
  3. AOL | Monthly visits: 448–524 million
  4. Google | Monthly visits: <100–333 million
  5. eBay | Monthly visits: 164–289 million

2002

  1. Yahoo | Monthly visits: 1.6–3.4 billion
  2. MSN | Monthly visits: 610 million–1.3 billion
  3. AOL | Monthly visits: 529–681 million
  4. Google | Monthly visits: 347–644 million
  5. eBay | Monthly visits: 296–520 million

2003

  1. Yahoo | Monthly visits: 3.5–5.2 billion
  2. MSN | Monthly visits: 1.3–1.8 billion
  3. Google | Monthly visits: 663 million–1.03 billion
  4. AOL | Monthly visits: 691–846 million
  5. eBay | Monthly visits: 534–751 million

2004

  1. Yahoo | Monthly visits: 5.2–6.6 billion
  2. MSN | Monthly visits: 1.7–1.95 billion
  3. Google | Monthly visits: 1.04–1.86 billion
  4. AOL | Monthly visits: 853 million–1.01 billion
  5. eBay | Monthly visits: 760–896 million

2005

  1. Yahoo | Monthly visits: 6.5–5.7 billion
  2. Google | Monthly visits: 1.89–4.34 billion
  3. MSN | Monthly visits: 1.92–1.42 billion
  4. MySpace | Monthly visits: <500 million–1.04 billion
  5. AOL | Monthly visits: 1.03–1.02 billion
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Screenshot of myspace.com 2005 from theoldnet.com

The birth of the social web

The latter half of the 2000s as well as the first years of the 2010s will forever be known as the age of the social web. Messenging sites grew exponentially, social media platforms popped up everywhere, email communication became the norm. With this evolution came negative consequences. Spam, online bullying, privacy concerns and breaches, to name a few. But let’s not forget the positives: Global exchange on a personal and professional level got easier, online startups flourished, online writing, blogging, digital content creation started to take off.

I’ve been there. Through all these years. It’s a tale of success and missed opportunities. For me and many of my generation. Looking back, it was one of the most important time spans in history. Today, it’s business as usual.

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