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Friday, April 24, 2009

Top 15 Web Properties of 1999... and 2019?

I love posts like this. Spurred by the closing of once-mighty Geocities, Harry McCracken looks back at the other top web properties in April 1999, and does a sort of "where are they now." Surprisingly, many of them -- AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft -- are still going strong. Most of the others are at least recognizable and memorable. It was all of that activity that motivated us to launch this site (in late August, 1999). As McCracken notes, Google wasn't "within a country mile of the top 50" back then. It was a startup. Those were the days.

By June, 2001, Google was on the map, but amazingly it was still able to fly well under the radar at #19 on the list, despite extensive press coverage. Revenues were still a pittance and the smart version of AdWords wouldn't launch until March, 2002. Stunning proof of the lack of good sense in the sector at the time was the inclusion of popup and popunder traffic in the overall traffic figures. That got X10, the makers of a stupid little spy camera, up to a stunning #4 on the list. Why would anyone be so forgiving of eBay and X10 popups? Well evidently, most of the investor money was already sucked out of the sector, advertising was crashing, and we needed to make nice with anyone willing to pay for inventory.

It's comforting to say "well, that was a long time ago"... but given the current recessionary state, it'll be all too easy to forget basic user experience principles and hand out webby's and pats on the back to players willing to violate them for a buck.

McCracken notes some current leaders that weren't on the list back then: Apple (thanks to iTunes), Wikimedia, Fox Interactive (thanks to MySpace), Facebook. For the most part, we can probably expect some of these guys to still be around, even leaders, in ten years' time. But within five years, we can also expect the top 15 list to be home to several companies that have just been founded, or have yet to be founded. Exciting times? It's always exciting out here.

Twitter and Facebook are the biggest wild cards, now that MySpace's decline is being accelerated by shuffling management. Still-young Facebook has reached #9 overall, not easy in a world dominated by big media players. Twitter has been the top gainer for several months in a row, doubling its traffic last month. Either they grow in their own right or solidify the position of one of the top ten current players. Growing independently is not as easy as it looks. Just ask Excite, Lycos, Snap, Go, Xoom, and some of the other top names of 1999.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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