The 10 most-visited websites in America may share a few characteristics, but interestingly enough, none are in the same business, with the exception of two portals. Each has a different business model as well. An analysis of these largest sites shows that no single model has helped one type of Internet property or another to dominate the web in terms of traffic. The collection of media that is the Internet shows how essential web diversity has become to Americans’ lives.
This list of the most visited sites includes the world’s largest search engine, web portal, video site, software company, social network, encyclopedia, and e-commerce site. One of the sites on this list, Wikipedia, is a nonprofit that runs on a budget of a few million dollars a year. Another, Google, has revenue that will be well above $50 billion. Revenue is not essential to size online, but size can be essential to revenue.
Internet giants have been in particular focus recently, mostly for three reasons. The first is that large sites collect millions and millions of pieces of information about their visitors. Governments, both inside the U.S. and, especially, in Europe have become concerned with how this information is gathered, to whom it is given, what is done with it, and for what financial consideration. Naturally, sites with the largest number of visitors are at the center of this because their inventories of user data are so vast.
Another reason large Internet properties are of interest lately is the upcoming initial public offering of Facebook. The online social networking site has close to one billion members, many of whom spend hundreds of hours each month on the site. The company’s value is set at about $100 billion ahead of the public offering, which is extraordinary because Facebook’s revenue was less than $4 billion in 2011. There is a great disparity among the value of the most visited websites, causing a debate about why users of an e-commerce site are worth any more or less than users of a search engine or a social network.
Finally, sites with tens of millions of visitors are in focus also because of the mass movement of Internet users from PC to smartphones. Smartphones have browsers that operate nearly identically to those on PCs. Strong processors and high-speed wireless connections allow smartphone users to visit the same sites and use them in the same way as they do on computers. The owners of all sites are in a frenzy to see if they can hold onto their user base in the smartphone environment. What happens to the very largest sites will at least be instructional.
With each year, the Internet becomes increasingly crowded with websites of various sizes, features and functions. The most-visited sites have been among the largest ones for several years. That tells a great deal about the real interests of Americans, probably as much as any other set of markers.
24/7 Wall St. used data from Quantcast to rank the sites. The rank is based on the number of people in the United States who visit each site in a month. The data are updated daily. Revenue figures are based on SEC filings for the public companies and for those in the process of going public. For others, the information is based on data from third party analysts. Revenue data or estimates are for full year 2011.