Looking back at the 3 most visited websites in the world

Since the research done by US federal government in the late 1960’s, to public emergence in mid 1990’s, to over three billion people worldwide accessing web pages and communicating via computers, the Internet has made quite the entrance over the turn of the century.

In the process, a few websites have risen to top dog status in the Internet world. The top three most visited internet pages today, according to Alexa, are Google, YouTube, and Facebook, followed by Baidu, Yahoo, and Wikipedia. We decided to harness the powers of the WayBack Machine, a nonprofit digital library that tracks screenshots of internet pages over time, and take a stroll through memory lane.

In the words of Matchbox Twenty – let’s see how far we’ve come.

3. Facebook

Facebook is the third most visited site globally and second most visited in the U.S., with 21% of all page visits coming from the U.S. It was launched on February 4, 2004 by then Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg, with his college roommate Eduardo Saverin. Initially it was created to connect college students only, but has since expanded to be the largest social connection platform in the world. (Fun fact: The oldest Facebook user is Edythe Kirchmaier at 107 years old!)

The early domains of www.facebook.com pointed to a variety of hilarious web pages. The earliest screenshots in 1998 are of a website called AboutFace, a “web-based electronic dictionary” that apparently never made it off the ground. In 2000 they have a re-brand with the motto, “never misplace a face.” Check it out here, it’s fascinating.

At one point you also get this. Sorry, Lisa:

Screenshot 2016-05-05 09.43.08

Then on August 28, 2005, you get this:

Old FacebookJuly 30, 2008:

Old Facebook

December 15, 2011:

Screenshot 2016-05-05 09.55.58

To at last, today.

May 5, 2016:

Screenshot 2016-05-05 09.58.38

Who knew a site called “facebook” would end up being the platform for documenting your life, making relationships official to the public, and feeling validated through ‘likes’?

2. YouTube

YouTube is the go-to video sharing platform and second most visited site globally (third in the U.S.). The Internet domain name www.youtube.com was activated on Monday, February 14, 2005 at 9:13PM. It was created by PayPal employees who wanted a video sharing platform where they could upload and share videos with each other.

Early stages looked like this.

April 28, 2005:

Screenshot 2016-05-05 09.39.19“I’m a male seeking everyone.”


April 30, 2009: (Take a look at the trending videos. History!)

Screenshot 2016-05-05 10.08.43

August 1, 2012: Note, the spotlight is on Beatboxing…in Japan.

Screenshot 2016-05-05 10.18.59

To finally… today.

May 5, 2016:

Screenshot 2016-05-05 10.20.52

In 2013, YouTube reported having over 1 billion active users each month. They also report getting 300,000 video uploads per day, with an average of of 80,000 hours worth of video. Nearly half is categorized as “People and blogs” — but a third of all views goes to gaming. People just love watching other people play games. Go figure.

1. Google

At last, the search engine king and the most visited website in the world, (although a third of the visitors are from the U.S.). Google started as a Ph.D project by Stanford students Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The domain was registered on September 15, 1997. A year later, this is the first look we get at Google (a play on the mathematical term, “googol.”):

November 11, 1998

Screenshot 2016-05-04 16.47.48September 1999: A year later, they had the color scheme in place. It’s actually quite shocking how similar this looks to what we know today:


Screenshot 2016-05-04 16.35.21April 17, 2007 and it looks very familiar:

Screenshot 2016-05-05 09.25.56April 15, 2010:

Screenshot 2016-05-05 09.27.46

Then finally, today.

May 5, 2016:

Screenshot 2016-05-05 09.32.13

A few fun facts: the top 5 most searched (non-branded) terms on Google are, as of 2015: weather, translate, maps, news and calculator. The basics. Check out this page to see the top trending searches today.

If this can happen in 20 years, what will happen in the next 20? Time will only tell…

Oh, and of course. Who could forget this gem?


froogle(Now Google Shopping. But this was clearly the better name.)

Browse more internet history to your heart’s content with the WayBack Machine. It’s pretty awesome.

Marisa Jackels

Marisa Jackels

, Tech