That Was Then, This is Now

The Web has become an integral part of daily life for more than 150 million Americans. But back in 1996 -- when Media Metrix released the world’s first ranking of the most-visited Web sites -- only about 20 million U.S. households had a home Internet connection.

To celebrate its eight-years of online consumer measurement, comScore Media Metrix (the company was acquired by comScore Networks in June 2002) re-released its January 1996 Web site rankings alongside the January 2004 rankings. 

“In the eight years since the Media Metrix service began tracking Internet use, the Web has grown from a novelty used by a minority of techno-savvy users to a mainstream medium used by the majority of the U.S. population,” says Peter Daboll, president and CEO of comScore Media Metrix. “Comparing this month’s ranking to that of January 1996 provides the numbers behind the fascinating story of how the Internet evolved to become an integral part of mainstream American life.”

The Internet has grown not only in size, but also in scope of application. In the mid-nineties, the Web was dominated by “Internet Service Provider” sites that offered a connection to the Internet (many of which evolved into “portals”), search engines and university sites. Since then, however, the Internet user base has expanded dramatically, high-speed connections have spread beyond corporate and academic campuses, and users have become increasingly dependent on the Internet’s many unique capabilities. As a result, the Internet has emerged as a uniquely powerful and holistic medium. 

Below are rankings of the top ten properties in January 1996 versus January 2004. A full comparison of the top 50 properties is available at the end of this article:

Ranking of Top Web Sites*
January 1996
U.S. Home Audience
Source: Media Metrix
  Ranking of Top 50 Online Properties
January 2004
Total U.S. - Home, Work and University Locations
Source: comScore Media Metrix
Rank   Audience Reach   Rank   Home Only All Locations
  Total Internet Population 115 million (100%)     Total Internet Population 100% 134,227 100% 152,443
1 Aol.com 41%   1 Yahoo! Sites 67.1% 90,129 72.7% 110,120
2 Webcrawler.com 33%   2 MSN-Microsoft Sites 66.4% 89,133 71.6% 109,059
3 Netscape.com 31%   3 Time Warner Network 64.3% 86,284 70.8% 107,081
4 Yahoo.com 29%   4 Ebay 41.6% 55,859 47.6% 58,283
5 Infoseek.com 21%   5 Google Sites 34.5% 46,275 39.7% 55,102
6 Prodigy.com 18%   6 Terra Lycos 24.5% 32,841 31.7% 52,163
7 Compuserve.com 14%   7 About/Primedia 21.5% 28,917 27.1% 52,108
8 Umich.edu 10%   8 Amazon Sites 19.6% 26,278 25.0% 40,975
9 Primenet.com 9%   9 Viacom Online 13.9% 18,619 17.4% 37,130
10 Well.com 9%   10 Weather Channel, The 13.2% 17,765 16.2% 31,501

While information and content delivery have surged in popularity, e-commerce properties such as eBay, Amazon, TicketMaster, Orbitz, Expedia and others now rank among the most popular destinations on the Web. In fact, online spending (excluding auctions) is on target to break the $100 billion threshold this year -- another spectacular growth story tracked by comScore Networks.

The Web has had a major impact on a broad range of industries, from retail to entertainment to travel. In January 2004, 83.5 million Americans, or 55 percent of the Internet population, visited either eBay or Amazon, making these sites among the most heavily trafficked retailers in the country -- online or offline. Major entertainment conglomerates, such as Time Warner, Viacom and Disney, have built vast Internet networks that reach tens of millions of Americans every month. Online travel agencies, such as Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity, have revolutionized the travel industry by giving more power to consumers and driving down prices of airfare, hotel rooms and car rentals. Consumers have responded positively and, as a result, the online travel industry has grown from a fledgling business in 1996 to $41 billion in consumer sales in 2003.

A comparison of site and property rankings from 1996 to today also highlights a tremendous amount of consolidation, both in terms of media ownership and audience reach. Time Warner, for example, now controls a number of 1996’s top sites, including AOL.com, Netscape.com, Compuserve.com and Pathfinder.com. While the top three sites of the mid-nineties each reached approximately 4 to 6 million people (representing 30 to 40 percent of total online users), the top three properties of today’s Internet are massive networks owned by Yahoo!, Microsoft and Time Warner, each of which reaches more than 70 percent of the Internet population with audiences exceeding 100 million people each month. Collectively, these three leading networks reach virtually every Internet user in the United States.

Ranking of Top Web Sites*
January 1996
U.S. Home Audience
Source: Media Metrix
  Ranking of Top 50 Online Properties
January 2004
Total U.S. - Home, Work and University Locations
Source: comScore Media Metrix
Rank   Audience Reach   Rank   Home Only All Locations
  Total Internet Population 115 million (100%)     Total Internet Population 100% 134,227 100% 152,443
1 Aol.com 41%   1 Yahoo! Sites 67.1% 90,129 72.7% 110,120
2 Webcrawler.com 33%   2 MSN-Microsoft Sites 66.4% 89,133 71.6% 109,059
3 Netscape.com 31%   3 Time Warner Network 64.3% 86,284 70.8% 107,081
4 Yahoo.com 29%   4 Ebay 41.6% 55,859 47.6% 58,283
5 Infoseek.com 21%   5 Google Sites 34.5% 46,275 39.7% 55,102
6 Prodigy.com 18%   6 Terra Lycos 24.5% 32,841 31.7% 52,163
7 Compuserve.com 14%   7 About/Primedia 21.5% 28,917 27.1% 52,108
8 Umich.edu 10%   8 Amazon Sites 19.6% 26,278 25.0% 40,975
9 Primenet.com 9%   9 Viacom Online 13.9% 18,619 17.4% 37,130
10 Well.com 9%   10 Weather Channel, The 13.2% 17,765 16.2% 31,501
11 CMU.EDU 8%   11 Walt Disney Internet Group 13.3% 17,841 15.8% 31,284
11 GNN.COM 8%   12 Excite Network 13.6% 18,191 15.6% 30,417
13 MCOM.COM 8%   13 CNET Networks 10.8% 14,449 15.2% 30,161
14 MIT.EDU 8%   14 Verizon Communications Corp. 9.7% 12,986 14.1% 29,813
15 TELEPORT.COM 7%   15 Real.com Network 10.1% 13,514 14.1% 28,413
16 GEOCITIES.COM 7%   16 Symantec 10.5% 14,053 13.8% 27,521
16 WEBCOM.COM 7%   17 Tickle, Inc. 8.9% 12,002 12.7% 23,807
16 PENTHOUSEMAG.COM 7%   18 Gorilla Nation Media 10.0% 13,481 11.9% 23,530
19 EXCITE.COM 7%   19 Monster Property 8.7% 11,741 11.8% 21,978
19 UIUC.EDU 7%   20 Shopping.com Sites 8.2% 11,061 11.3% 21,458
19 UCHICAGO.EDU 7%   21 InfoSpace Network 8.2% 11,017 10.9% 20,769
22 CRIS.COM 6%   22 EA Online 10.0% 13,400 10.9% 20,023
23 PLAYBOY.COM 6%   23 ORBITZ.COM 7.8% 10,480 10.6% 19,795
23 LYCOS.COM 6%   24 Expedia Travel 7.7% 10,283 10.6% 19,199
23 BEST.COM 6%   25 CareerBuilder, Inc. 8.3% 11,205 10.2% 19,109
26 CRL.COM 5%   26 Ask Jeeves 8.2% 10,990 10.2% 19,106
26 USTREAS.GOV 5%   27 Weatherbug.com Property 7.7% 10,387 10.0% 19,099
26 NASA.GOV 5%   28 SBC Communications 7.8% 10,419 9.9% 18,650
26 MICROSOFT.COM 5%   29 Cox Enterprises Inc. 7.7% 10,382 9.7% 16,882
26 WASHINGTON.EDU 5%   30 Sony Online 7.2% 9,662 9.7% 16,694
31 DIGITAL.COM 5%   31 Wal-Mart 7.7% 10,367 9.6% 15,519
31 CNET.COM 5%   32 AT&T Properties 7.7% 10,339 9.3% 14,921
31 TURNPIKE.NET 5%   33 Gannett Sites 6.9% 9,196 9.2% 14,773
34 UNC.EDU 5%   34 Classmates.com Sites 7.4% 9,906 9.1% 14,596
34 UTEXAS.EDU 5%   35 E.W. Scripps 7.5% 10,015 8.9% 14,009
34 IBM.COM 5%   36 AmericanGreetings Property 6.9% 9,285 8.8% 13,993
34 COLUMBIA.EDU 5%   37 eUniverse Network 7.2% 9,620 8.7% 13,692
34 UFL.EDU 5%   38 iVillage.com: Womens Network 6.7% 8,970 8.7% 13,434
34 GEOPAGES.COM 5%   39 Adobe Sites 5.6% 7,502 8.5% 13,374
40 USATODAY.COM 4%   40 United Online, Inc 8.1% 10,856 8.5% 13,059
40 TAMU.EDU 4%   41 Dell 6.2% 8,286 8.4% 12,841
40 ONPROD.COM 4%   42 Travelocity 6.2% 8,318 8.2% 12,564
40 ELECTRICITI.COM 4%   43 Vivendi-Universal Sites 5.7% 7,688 8.0% 12,550
40 RPI.EDU 4%   44 NFL Internet Group 6.2% 8,291 7.6% 12,500
40 NETCOM.COM 4%   45 MyFamily Network 6.0% 8,066 7.6% 12,361
40 IGC.NET 4%   46 Trip Network Inc. 5.4% 7,185 7.5% 12,350
40 INFI.NET 4%   47 Comcast Corporation 5.9% 7,888 7.5% 12,325
40 UMN.EDU 4%   48 News Corp. Online 5.4% 7,247 7.5% 11,682
49 HOTSEX.COM 4%   49 Womensforum Sites 5.5% 7,357 7.4% 11,608
49 PATHFINDER.COM 4%   50 Hewlett Packard 5.2% 7,042 7.3% 11,571
49 IOS.COM 4%              
49 WWA.COM 4%              
49 PSC.EDU 4%              
49 OHIO-STATE.EDU 4%              
49 SUPERBOWL.COM 4%              

*Based on best available research at the time

 

Comments