20 giant companies that ruled the Internet - from the late 1990s to today

20 giant companies that ruled the Internet – from the late 1990s to today

In 1998, most sites were news aggregators or easy-to-understand search engines. Today, brands are often distributed across many formats, such as websites and mobile applications, or many services and sub-brands, like Meta Corporation.


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Thanks to the ComScore rating below, you can see with your own eyes – who has evolved since its inception, and who has sunk into Internet oblivion forever.


America goes online

For millions of people in the late 90s, the iconic AOL CD was the key that opened the door to the World Wide Web. At its peak, approximately 35 million people used the Internet with the help of AOL, and the company propelled the dot-com bubble to dizzying heights, reaching a valuation of $222 billion in 1999.


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The brand never completely disappeared from view: the company continued to grow until it was acquired by Verizon along with Yahoo. The latter also had high hopes for a company called Oath, which has become a “third option” for advertisers and users fed up with Google and Facebook. Unfortunately, these ambitions did not materialize.

In 2019, Oath was rebranded as Verizon Media before being sold again in 2021.

Internet cities

At a time when many more people began to use the Internet, AngelFire and GeoCities web hosting appeared. The latter in particular had a huge impact on the early internet, hosting millions of websites and empowering people to actually participate in online content creation.

The name of the service – “GeoCities” – is due to the fact that user sites were grouped into “virtual cities”, which were named based on real ones. If you physically collect all this community of “home” pages, you would get the third largest city in America after Los Angeles.

Hosting was in danger of being wiped out when Yahoo permanently shut down GeoCities in 2009, but fortunately the non-profit organization The Internet Archive opened a “GeoCities Special Collection 2009” page where you could request an archive of any of the many sites hosted by GeoCities .

From book sales to worldwide recognition

Amazon.com was created in 1994 by American entrepreneur Jeff Bezos, when it looked little like today’s largest e-commerce platform in the world.

Jeff Bezos

It all started with the online sale of books, to which other products gradually began to be added: electronics, video games, furniture, food and jewelry. Employees of the company worked day and night and spent the night in cars, and people actively picked up and fell in love with the idea of ​​selling on the Internet, getting used to such shopping completely.

“Amazon.com Becomes the Most Successful Seller on the Internet” reads a New York Times headline in 1998.

magazine mogul

The Meredith brand is unlikely to evoke any emotion in people who hear the name. However, the company once controlled many of the most popular US magazine brands (People, AllRecipes, Martha Stewart, Health, etc.), including their digital versions. Meredith also owned many local television networks.

After acquiring the iconic Time Inc. in 2017, Meredith became the largest magazine publisher in the world.

However, the company has since sold many of its most valuable assets (Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune). In December 2021, Meredith merged with Dotdash IAC.

“OK Google”

When people have burning questions, they increasingly turn to the Internet for answers, but the variety of such sources is declining. Back in 2013, About.com, Ask.com, and Answers.com were some of the largest websites in America. Today, however, Google seems to have cemented its status as a one-stop-shop for answers.

Smart speakers and voice assistants continue to hit the market, boosting Google’s search interest – so it’s unlikely to face competition from any company that doesn’t make it into the top 20.

The world of social networks

Social networks have long outgrown their “try for fun” stage and have become a global digital thread that connects people around the world. While Facebook quickly entered the top 20 by 2007, other social media-based brands took longer to develop into internet giants.

Twitter and Snapchat, for example, only joined the list in 2018.

The most persistent

Today’s Internet giants cannot be compared with the leaders of twenty years ago. Many of the companies in the top 20 operate numerous platforms and streams of content, although their names may be unfamiliar to us.

For example, Mediavine and CafeMedia are ad management services. Others manage the distribution of music content, or how Hearst manages a group of smaller media assets. And finally, the tech giants.

It is noteworthy that in 1998, three of the five best web resources today were in the top 20. In a rapidly evolving digital ecosystem, this is amazing resilience.

Source: Visualcapitalist

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