On Oct. 29, 2019, the internet celebrated its 50th birthday. Half a century earlier, the world’s first message was sent via an interconnected computer network known as ARPANET from a nondescript classroom at the University of California, Los Angeles, to a computer at the Stanford Research Institute. The message, “Lo,” was supposed to read “Login” but only the L and O transmitted before the whole thing crashed (The full text was successfully sent an hour later).
Fifty years in, scientists have worked out that kink while simultaneously changing the internet from something practically theoretical to something that permeates almost every aspect of our lives. In fact, the internet has become so pervasive in our daily lives that many technology evangelists, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, believe connectivity is a human right, much like access to education or housing. But with new laws coming into effect like Russia’s “sovereign internet law” which essentially cuts off Russia’s internet from the rest of the world, it seems like the internet might be on a path that would do more to disconnect than connect us.
As we look forward to the next 50 years of the internet and the uncertainty of what it might bring to the world, it's illuminating to look back and see just how far we’ve already come. Today, Stacker looks at how the most popular websites in the world looked a short decade ago. Stacker compiled a list of the websites with the most traffic in the United States according to Alexa rankings on Oct. 28, 2019. Adult sites were not included on the list, but everything else from e-commerce websites to banking platforms and social media networks were covered.
Read on to see whether your most-visited websites made the list, and which one doesn’t even exist anymore.
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PayPal is a website that allows you to pay others, send money, and accept payments. Users connect their debit or credit cards to their PayPal accounts to complete purchases with merchants and sellers around the world. The website’s data encryption and anti-fraud technology help to keep user information more secure than traditional online checkout services.
PayPal was hacked in 2010 by members of the hacking collective Anonymous in response to the service’s refusal to process payments on behalf of WikiLeaks. As a result, PayPal tasked 100 employees from its parent company, eBay, with rectifying the website’s issues and developing software and hardware to prevent similar future attacks. The PayPal of today is much more secure (and much sleeker) than the one of 10 years ago.
Taobao’s current website is much sleeker and more streamlined than the one that filled browsers in 2010. While there are still mounds of products to sift through, it’s far easier for bargain hunters to find a rock-bottom price using today’s image-heavy platform.
Hulu is an on-demand streaming platform that allows viewers to watch new and popular network and cable shows, as well as original content. The company also offers a live TV option, which, for an additional fee, replaces the need for a cable or satellite subscription.
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Hulu has added a half-dozen new features over the past decade, including an add-free subscription tier, the ability to watch content offline, and a slew of original programming. Additionally, the company has been working to make the website’s user interface a more natural experience over the past year.
Imgur is a social-networking platform and image-hosting site where users can share pictures and create memes. The website was created by Alan Schaaf in 2009 as a response to problems that plagued similar existing platforms.
A decade ago, the home page of Imgur was incredibly simple; it featured only a bubble letter logo and a search bar. Click on the website today, and you’ll be greeted with a never-ending scroll of the most popular images, memes, and .gifs, content that has allowed the company to gain 300 million active users over the past decade.
In 1995, Wells Fargo became the first bank to offer its customers online banking. It took four years for the company to reach 1 million active online banking customers. Today, over 26 million of Wells Fargo’s customers complete their business with the company via the website.
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In 2013, Microsoft bought former rival Skype, which replaced the need for its original instant messaging platform. Additionally, msn.com users can now connect to newer social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, through the front page of the website.
The #1 job site in the world, Indeed.com allows job seekers to look for jobs, post their resumes, and research potential companies. With 250 million unique monthly visitors, and 10 jobs added per second (globally), Indeed.com is undeniably one of the top resources for those looking to find work.
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In 2012, Indeed.com sold for $1 billion to a Tokyo-based HR company. However, despite the sale and the intervening years, the website has remained largely unchanged.
One of the largest real estate and rental marketplaces on the web, Zillow.com has a database of over 110 million U.S. homes. The listings on Zillow.com include homes for sale, homes for rent, and homes not currently on the market. The website also provides “zestimate” home values and rents, allowing users to be more informed when comparing potential options.
Over the past decade, Zillow Group has acquired dozens of rival home sales and rental companies, as well as its own home loans company (formerly Mortgage Lenders of America). The company also has invested heavily in its website, making it more easily navigable for users.
Spotify is a digital music, video, and podcast streaming service that allows patrons to stream millions of songs from artists all over the world. Users can listen for free or upgrade to a paid, ad-free subscription service. They also can create playlists and radio stations, see what friends and celebrities are listening to, and receive personalized recommendations based on individual tastes.
Launched in 2008, Spotify has become the most popular audio streaming subscription service in the world over the past decade. Now in 79 markets, the streaming service has over 50 million tracks for its 248 million monthly users to browse through.
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Amazon Web Services is the world’s largest cloud platform. AWS offers more fully featured services than any other cloud provider and has millions of customers and thousands of global partners. Amazon Web Services is one of the safest, most secure, and most reliable cloud providers currently available.
Over the past decade, Amazonaws.com has become an almost totally different website both in functionality and appearance. For example, the company has gone from offering two services upon its public launch in 2006, to offering 165 services in 2019. The growth was so fast that it allowed the company to surpass CEO Jeff Bezos’s $10 billion revenue target in 2016.
Sohu.com is one of China’s leading internet portals. Similar to Yahoo.com, Sohu offers a search engine and an internet directory, sells advertising, and hosts popular gaming and news platforms.
Sohu has faced a decline in popularity over the past few years, as users have switched to surfing the web on their cellphones and have developed preferences for apps that deliver content straight to their handheld screens. In fact, in 2018 Sohu made news when it fell out of the league of companies worth $1 billion U.S. dollars in market value.
A subsidiary of Tencent, Qq.com is another one of China’s leading internet portals. The website provides real-time news coverage and information services for Chinese internet users.
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The Qq.com website has continued to provide premium reporting of both hard-hitting and lifestyle news over the past decade. The main difference visitors will notice is that the website’s color scheme changed from red to blue. Blue is said to send a message of trustworthiness—something a news company would certainly want to take advantage of.
A searchable database, IMDb is one of the world’s most popular sources for movie, TV, and entertainment content. The website was designed to help fans explore the world of entertainment, choose what to watch next, and remember old favorites.
The amount of information cataloged by IMDb has grown exponentially over the past 10 years. As of May 2019, the website has nearly 6 million titles (including movies and TV episodes) and nearly 10 million names in its database.
Built and run by its users, Stack Overflow is a question-and-answer site for professional and enthusiast programmers. The website aims to develop a library of answers for every conceivable programming question.
One major change the Stack Overflow website has seen over the past decade is the addition of its job board in 2011. The feature allows programmers to find new roles based on title, technology stack, salary location, and a variety of other factors. In addition, the website now has answers to over 18 million questions, making it an invaluable resource for coders.
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Adobe.com boasts that it can give everyone from emerging artists to global brands everything they need to design and deliver exceptional digital experiences. The software company offers everything from pdf and e-signature services to creative tools like Photoshop and Lightroom to campaign management programs.
One of the biggest changes Adobe has made over the past decade is switching its entire product lineup to the cloud. In 2013 the company released Creative Cloud, which replaced the entire Creative Suite. Adobe users now use a subscription-based service via the company’s website to access classic programs like Photoshop and Lightroom—a far cry from the Adobe website of 2010 that sold CD-ROMs of the programs.
The Walton family opened the first Walmart store in Rogers, Ark., in 1962. By 1990, the superstore was the largest retailer in the United States. And in 2000, the company launched Walmart.com, providing its customers with a way to shop online.
While online shopping was still somewhat of a novelty in the early 2000s, that’s certainly not the case today. Walmart ranked #3 on the 2018 Digital Commerce 360 “Top 1000 Internet Retailer” list, passing giants like Apple, but falling short of the sales made by Amazon and eBay.
Craig Newmark started Craigslist in 1995 as an email newsletter called “San Francisco Events.” Now one of the biggest classified ads websites on the internet, garnering over 50 billion page views each month, Craigslist has hyperlocal websites for cities all over the world. Visitors will find everything from advertisements for cars for sale, job postings, and missed connections on the website.
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The Craigslist website still looks and functions much as it did a decade ago, but there have been a number of changes in what the company allows to be advertised on the site. For example, in 2018 Craigslist removed its personal ads section, which had been a part of the website since its 1995 launch. The company removed the section in an effort to help with a nationwide crackdown on online sex trafficking.
One of the country’s most trusted news sources, The New York Times is “dedicated to helping people understand the world through on-the-ground, expert, and deeply reported independent journalism.” The news company has 1,600 reporters on staff who produce copy seen by 150 million monthly global readers.
One of the biggest changes to The New York Times website over the past decade has been the installation of a paywall. Rolled out on March 17, 2011, as a response to dropping hard-copy subscriptions, the paywall now requires readers to have at least a digital subscription to access all of the newspaper’s online content. Before the paywall, access to the website had been free.
Microsoft revealed a new logo in 2012, marking the first time in 25 years the company had gotten a facelift. The company’s sleeker look is the biggest change to the website, aside from the updated technology sold via the online store.
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Back in 2010, Twtich.tv was just a GoDaddy domain. The company didn’t officially launch until 2011. Despite its short history, Twitch.tv has grown incredibly fast. Nearly 1.2 million viewers tune in each week, watching a combined 1 billion hours of live streaming each month, according to the company.
Shopify is a commerce platform that allows individuals to start, grow, and manage their own online businesses. Called “the Amazon of small businesses,” Shopify has grown 144% each year to date, making it the biggest small business platform on the web.
The biggest change to the Shopify website is the number of businesses that use the platform: back in 2010, Shopify boasted that 15,000 shops used it to start their storefronts. Today the website is home to 1 million business owners. The growth hasn’t come without a few bumps, however, as plenty of sellers and buyers have complained that the platform doesn’t do enough to stop fraudsters and scammers from running amok on the platform.
In 2019, the Forbes Global 2000, which ranks the world’s largest public companies, named Apple the largest tech company in the world for the fourth year in a row. With an annual revenue of $262 billion, the Apple of today is a far cry from the Apple of 1997 that Steve Jobs saved from almost certain death.
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Back in 2010, popular Apple products like Apple Music and Apple TV+ didn’t exist. While the tabs and ads for these services dominate the website today, the 2010 version of the website instead had tabs for iTunes and downloads above advertisements for the iPod Nano and iPhone 3G.
Dropbox is a file hosting service that offers everything from cloud storage to client software. Users can opt for a free “basic” account that provides 2GB of cloud storage, or they can pay for upgraded accounts that include project management tools and team collaboration opportunities.
The Dropbox of a decade ago was mostly a background service, only allowing its users to upload and share their files and photos via the platform. The company rebranded in 2019, expanding its functions to become more like a conference room and less like a filing cabinet. Today’s Dropbox website offers new collaborative features like the Paper Collaborative Document Editor and allows users to download both desktop and mobile apps to keep their work at their fingertips 24/7.
LinkedIn is a social networking site that focuses on career development and professional networking. It allows users to post their resumes, search for jobs, and cultivate their professional lives via direct messaging and public posting.
In December 2016, Microsoft bought LinkedIn for $26 billion. While LinkedIn has remained its own independent entity since the sale, the website did undergo a major interface and feature upgrade in 2017. The update was intended to provide a more consistent experience for users, but some complain that the professional networking site now resembles Facebook a little too closely.
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As cloud computing technologies have grown, Microsoft has migrated all of its offerings completely online, eliminating the need to buy any of its products on CD-ROM. Throughout the process, Microsoft has given each product its own website like Office.com and Live.com. As a result, the once all-encompassing Microsoft Online hasn’t been used since 2018.
In 2010, Microsoft Online provided businesses with a cost-effective way to be flexible. The subscription-based service gave users access to programs like Microsoft Office Live Meeting and Microsoft Exchange Online. These programs allowed on-site and off-site employees to work together seamlessly, and were precursors to things like Microsoft 365.
Described as a microblogging, social networking, and news website, Twitter allows users to communicate with each other and the world at large via short status updates called “Tweets.” Jack Dorsey started the website, now deemed one of the biggest communications technologies of the past 100 years, as a side hustle in 2006.
The website has updated its look a handful of times over the past 10 years, now opting for a sleeker aesthetic than the bubble letters of 2010. The biggest functional change the website has seen over the past decade is an increase in the character limit per Tweet from 140 to 280, which happened in 2017.
Launched on June 1, 1980, CNN was the world’s first 24-hour news channel. The cable news brand now reaches 96.2 million households. On Aug. 30, 1995, CNN launched its website, which holds the title of the “number one online news destination,” according to Comscore.
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The biggest change to the CNN website is the “Live TV” tab. In 2017, CNN added the live feed to the top of its website, a move the company said provided “viewers [with] a revolutionary news-watching experience that offers the live CNN broadcast with unprecedented features.” The feature, which allows audiences to watch TV on the go, can also be found on the CNN app.
Started in 2008, Instructure is an educational technology company that developed the Canvas Learning Management System, which is currently the most used learning management system in North America. The company also developed the Canvas Network, an open, online course platform that allows for ongoing education.
In 2015, Instructure expanded its offerings to the business world with the launch of Bridge. Bridge is an employee development solution that helps companies provide their people with opportunities for connection and growth.
Designed to bring customers and customers together, Salesforce.com is a customer relationship management solution. The website aims to give every department in a company a singular, shared view of a customer via the cloud. Additionally, the website provides a variety of applications that help businesses develop customer service, sales, marketing, etc.
Salesforce.com debuted a new look in 2015. The website had remained largely unchanged for the company’s first 16 years in business, but the “lightning” upgrade—bright, vibrant, and clean, helped bring the website into the future. And, it gave users a more streamlined experience across all Salesforce platforms.
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November 2010 saw the official launch of Tmall.com, after its parent company, Alibaba group, split it off from consumer-to-consumer e-commerce platform Taobao.com. The massive growth the platform has seen since then when it comes to the sheer number of products and brands represented on the website is undoubtedly the biggest change to the site over the past decade.
The Chase.com website underwent a major redesign in 2016. More than just a streamlined new look, the redesign included features that allowed customers to see a snapshot of their accounts as soon as they logged in and gave them the ability to pay both bills and another person all in one place.
Instagram initially launched as an app, and its website wasn’t available until February 2013. While users still don’t have the ability to post photos via the website (that function is restricted to mobile apps), all of Instagram’s other functions, like Checkout and Stories, can be used on the online version.
ESPN’s website has grown increasingly popular over the past decade. In July 2019, the Disney-owned company announced that users had spent 70 million hours consuming its digital content over the past year. The website is the #1 digital sports property, with a reach that’s 63% above its closest rival.
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Office 365 is the core product accessed and distributed on Office.com. The cloud-based subscription service combines classic programs like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook with cloud services like OneDrive and Microsoft Teams.
The world’s leading entertainment service, Netflix has 158 million paid memberships in over 190 countries. Subscribers have access to a wealth of online content, including movies, TV shows, and Netflix Original series.
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While Netflix launched its streaming service in 2007, the selection of on-demand titles was still limited in 2010 and many subscribers ( 14 million in 2011) still preferred to have DVDs mailed directly to their homes. These days, Netflix is primarily a streaming service, with 151 million paying streaming subscribers and only 2.4 million DVD subscribers.
Over the past decade, Microsoft has redesigned the look of almost all of its products, breathing fresh life into the company. Bing is no exception. What was formerly just a search bar is now a website with a homepage filled with pictures and trivia, designed to draw visitors in and bump up page views.
An online auction site and consumer-to-consumer e-commerce platform, eBay was founded in September 1995. As of May 2019, the company had done $10.8 billion in sales.
Over the past decade, eBay has used artificial intelligence in ways that have had a big effect on its bottom line. For example, in 2016 eBay bought Expertmaker, a leading artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data analytics firm. In 2017, the company rolled out personalized eBay homepages powered by this structured data and designed to create more enticing shopping experiences.
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In 2017, the Wikimedia Foundation announced a project called Wikimedia 2030 that has been guiding growth and change for the online encyclopedia ever since. The project aims to provide free knowledge for all, especially for those in currently underserved countries, and to make knowledge more inclusive, encouraging more diversity in Wikipedia’s writing and editing. Additionally, Wikipedia has waged war on fake news, pledging to do its best to scrub such entries from its site.
The co-founders left Reddit in 2010, and the platform took a turn for the worse, becoming a known platform for hate speech. In 2015, the duo returned as CEO (Huffman) and board member (Ohanian) saving the company from going under. Today, Reddit has 330 million active monthly users and garners 14 billion views per month.
In 2016, Yahoo sold its core operating business to Verizon in what’s been called the “saddest $5 billion deal in tech history.” It was a sharp fall for the company which was worth $125 billion at its height.
Fifteen years after its launch, Facebook is the largest social network in the world. With 2.4 billion monthly active users and 1.6 billion daily active users in 2019, Facebook is also one of the most influential companies in the world. The website was started by Mark Zuckerberg in 2003 when he was a sophomore at Harvard University.
While Facebook still remains immensely popular, several data privacy scandals, like the Cambridge Analytical scandal, have led many users to question their use of the site, with some leaving it altogether. In December 2018, the social media platform claimed to have over 30,000 people working on the website’s safety and security to give users peace of mind. However, there has undeniably been a shift in how, and how much, users share with the website.
The sheer number of ways Amazon.com has changed over the past decade is almost overwhelming. There are, however, highlights. In 2011, Amazon started offering digital streaming services to its Prime subscribers, and in 2014, Amazon started to deeply integrate AI (artificial intelligence) into almost every aspect of its business and services, giving us household products like Alexa.
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The look and layout of YouTube changed significantly in 2017. The platform unveiled a clean new design, updated discover features, and a brand new logo and icon. The updates were met with mixed reviews, and many accused the platform of not focusing on more pressing issues like sporadic demonetization.
At best estimate, Google processes over 40,000 queries each second and over 3.5 billion searches each day. Over the past decade, the company has grown so much that in 2015 they announced the formation of a parent company called Alphabet that would better help to facilitate growth going forward. As of September 2019, the company is undergoing an antitrust investigation supported by 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
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