From Lycos to Ask Jeeves to Facebook: Tracking the 20 most popular Web sites every year since 1996

By Philip Bump, Reporter – New York, The Washington Post

Reproduced unedited from The Washington Post. The original article can be seen here.

Our goal is not to confuse or alarm you, but we must, as agents of the news media, speak the truth. And so we say, with all due solemnity, that if it were 16 years ago, you would right now be reading this article at Excite.com.

That’s really one of the best case scenarios. You could also be at Infoseek, or Tripod (what) or Xoom (what?). Because the web in December 1998 was a much different, much lamer place.

We like to think of sites like Google, Facebook and Amazon as immutable — parts of the web as it exists now and has always existed. This is not the case, however. Sixteen years ago, only Amazon (the CEO of which owns The Post) was a popular site; it was the 16th most popular site on the web according to Media Metrix (which later was absorbed into comScore). Infoseek and Hotbot were more popular than Google (which, that December, looked like this) and Facebook (which didn’t exist).

Sites like AOL and Yahoo did exist — and were popular. But the easiest way to make that point is to share with you this graphic, which shows the 20 most popular sites in December of each year, according to comScore. More interestingly, what it shows is when certain sites became and then stopped being popular.

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