Internet All Stars '01: Where are they now?

"Bootylicious" was dominating the airwaves , Rush Hour 2 was battling American Pie 2 for box office (if not artistic) greatness and the US was more concerned about stem cells than homeland security. It was August in 2001, and just because the Internet bubble had already burst, the internet itself was still going strong. With a full six years of technological growth and consumer adoption, how has the internet changed?

A lot.

We’ve been tracking internet activity for a while. Long enough, in fact, to look back now and find some really cool stuff. The table below shows the largest 50 sites circa August 2001, based on monthly attention. More importantly, it also shows how that attention share has shifted since.

Top 50 most popular websites August 2001

Biggest Losers

  • AudioGalaxy.com:A filesharing site falls completely off the radar? Who’da thunk it?
  • Flowgo.com: Kids have short attention spans. Despite being more colorful than radioactive skittles, Flowgo’s "cute" media could not compete with Myspace’s glitter templates
  • Iwin.com: Downloadable games? Sure"¦but not when the same thing can be played in a browser, and for free.
  • Netscape.com: You can’t spell AWOL without AOL.
  • Sina.com: Apparently the biggest website in China lost presence in the US
  • Geocities.com, angelfire.com, tripod.com: Precursors to social networks are still precursors. It was fun while it lasted.
  • Altavista.com: Babblefish successfully got me a D in French Class. Pouvez-vous dire vos résultats de recherche êtes-vous mauvais aussi?
  • Excite.com: Victim of the bust and an unremarkable portal, the site still looks stuck in 2002.
  • Lycos.com: Another unremarkable portal, another huge loser.
  • Dogpile.com: With a name that implies that they aggregate crap, it’s no surprise that this site fell to the wayside as search improved.

Biggest Winners

  • Google.com: While every other search engine/portal/search aggregator declined (or even completely fell off the map) Google.com now captures 381% more consumer attention than it did in August 2001.
  • Pogo.com: The online gaming site has grown from a respectable attention share of .34% in 2001, it now grabs nearly 1.69% of all time spent online.
  • CNN.com: The news giant captures about 48% more of consumers online attention than it did in 2001.
  • Mapquest.com: Despite GPS being in just about every device but the toaster, the map and directions provider has grown more than 32% in terms of attention since 2001.

General Trends

  • Consolidation of Search: In 2001, people apparently had a really hard time finding stuff. In the top 25 sites, 10 were some form of search engine or portal. With the exception of the MSN, Yahoo and Google, the rest have fallen out of the picture.
  • Shift toward socialization: The top sites in 2001 were predominately focused on delivering one-way information, whether it be through search, professional produced media, or ecommerce. In 2007, the top 50 are skewed heavily towards social sites, so much so, in fact, that MySpace, Youtube, and Facebook account for a collective 14% of all time spent online.
  • Increasing entertainment: With broadband speed comes broadband media and games. Pogo.com, runescape.com, and neopets.com all live in the top 25 sites on the web.

It’s interesting to note that almost all of these sites capture less online attention than in 2001. While this (in some cases) is a function of waning interests, an overall decrease in attention devoted to the top 50 sites speaks to the diversity of the current internet as it compares to 2001. More sites mean more places to spend time, and a naturally wider distribution of attention. But this hasn’t stopped the web from evolving dramatically, and for some really great sites to grow like crazy and some really poor ones to die off completely.

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