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A Look at Internet History: The Most Popular Websites from the Past

It has been quite some time since the invention of the Internet, previously known as the World Wide Web. With its roots back in the early 80s, the Internet has been with us for over three decades now. Nowadays it’s impossible to imagine that we didn’t have YouTube before 2005, and Google was barely used before the year 2000. This leads us to the question: which websites wrote Internet History?

Image Credit: Flickr/JP Goguen

Take a look at how the most popular websites of the 90s appeared back then:

  1. Just to get up to speed, and to give you a treat of nostalgia: This is the official website of the Space Jam movie! Let’s say it probably looked epic back then (1996). It’s amazing that the website is still up and running after all these years. Take a lookUntitled
  2. When you are looking for something on the Internet you will use Google right away. However, what did we use before that? Of course, we used Altavista! Although search has been dominated by Google since 2000, Altavista sure rocked the late nineties. After being founded in 1995, they were the most popular search tool on the web. In 2004 Altavista was bought by Yahoo, but that didn’t lead to much success. The summer of 2013 became the end of our once beloved search engine.Untitled2
  3. One of the sites we all used and probably still use is eBay. Although they still have a very functional web design, they improved a lot from what they used to look like. Do you remember the old version? eBay was, and still is, a great success. eBay started as a personal hobby of founder Pierre Omidyar, until his Internet provider contacted him to upgrade to a premium account due to the high volume of traffic to his website. From 1997 eBay’s traffic was skyrocketing for the auction website and the rest is history.Untitled3
  4. The Napster experience was groundbreaking and really gave users the feeling the Internet opened up for them. Sharing is caring, and the world loved the web’s first peer-to-peer file sharing service. Napster was shut down under pressure of music creators and copyright owners. Later we saw other initiatives like Kazaa and Limewire. Ultimately, Napster was resurrected as paid music streaming service and is actually doing well again. They made a stunning deal with Vodafone, but can they ever be successful as before? Today, a lot of us still use illegal websites for music and movies. But also legal alternatives like Spotify, iTunes and Netflix are doing well.Untitled4
  5. We can’t think of anything else than Facebook or Instagram today, but MySpace ruled as the first big social media site. Everybody could set up a page and you could compete over who had the most friends. The website enjoyed it’s peak time in 2006 and even beat Google as the most visited website in the US. MySpace is still around today, but it has lost the battle against Facebook and other social media services. Also, there was this guy called Tom who had a lot of friends. So did MySpace vanish? Totally not! They are actually making a great comeback, like Napster, as a music streaming service. Having over 40 million unique visitors a month, they are on the way back. There are not many websites that get a second chance on the internet, but MySpace might pull it off!Untitled5
  6. Back in the day, everyone’s wish was to build his own website. Geocities made it possible! It was a tool that made it possible to just place content onto your site. Pages didn’t have incredible looks, but that didn’t really matter at the time. The fact that you could have your own page was incredible enough. Either if you wanted a website for your guild or clan in-game or just a science page like Mr. Mont did in the picture below, Geocities made it happen! Oh, the nostalgia!Untitled6
  7. Next up in the list is the one we’ve all been expecting to be here: Google! Google began in 1996 as a project by Larry Page and Sergey Brin. In their research project they came up with a plan to make a search engine that ranked websites according to the number of other websites that linked to that site (and ultimately came up with the Google we have today). This is also the start of SEO and the upcoming of internet marketing. In 2000 Adwords/Adsense was born. These advertisements used a system based on the pretense that you only paid for your advertising if some clicked on your ad link – hence the term Pay Per Click (PPC) was born.Untitled7
  8. The Million Dollar Homepage is a website that was established in 2005 by Alex Tew, a student from Wiltshire, England, to raise money for his studies. The home page is made up of a million pixels, arranged in a grid of 1000 x 1000. Since one pixel in itself is not visible, the plates with the associated link into cubes of 10 to 10 were sold for $ 1 per pixel. The purpose of the website was to sell and thus earn a million dollars of all pixels. The website became a hit on the Internet and only a few months later Alex was a millionaire.Untitled8
  9. Obviously, Facebook contributed a lot to the Internet, and they still do. What they did and what they do didn’t change too much and we’re still living their era right now. There was even a movie released about Facebook called ‘The Social Network’, which you have probably already seen. Mister Zuckerberg owns it all! A new social platform emerges every month, but who can compete with Facebook? Will anyone manage?Untitled9
  10. Another king in social media-land is Twitter. Did you know their URL used to be It didn’t take long before they changed it in to though. Founder Jack Dorsey was also wise enough to change the green lay-out into something better and introduce the world renowned bird logo. Twitter was founded in 2006, but the real growth came in 2009, when it was used by the media for fast news covering of the emergency landing of flight US Airways 1549.Untitled10


If you want to learn more about the Internet’s history and if you even want to see the old and ancient versions of existing websites there is a useful tool called ‘Wayback Machine’.

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Written by:
A digital entrepreneur and a professional online marketer, Domingo Karsten is the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Saleduck – an online deals community catering to consumers across the globe. Besides overseeing the growth of Saleduck ( and contributing to the development of his team, Domingo is also active in sharing his professional advice and personal experience here, as well as on Fast Company and StartupJuncture.
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