Time Magazine, still the largest circulated news magazine in the world, has a knack for creating lists of relevant topics that shape our lives.
For years it has published annual Top-100 lists, but the magazine is world-famous for its annual Person of The Year (Previously known as Man of The Year) feature.
So, it should come as no surprise that Time Magazine would release a list of the top most influential websites of all time.
Time Magazine Top 15 Most Influential Websites of All Time
(15) Match.com – Turning classified ads looking for love from the back pages of third-rate newspapers to the mainstream on the World Wide Web. Tens of millions of subscribers in 25 countries now use Match.com to find their perfect partner.
(14) Reddit – Remember dial-up bulletin boards often run on Radio Shack TRS-80s and similar “leading edge cloud gear”?
Well if you are of the millennial age you probably won’t know what those are. But Reddit is today’s version of the old dial-up BBSes (BBS – Bulletin Board System) with some social media prowess mixed in.
(13) Pandora – This company embodies the world of today’s streaming content providers such as Netflix and Amazon. When it launched in 2000 with the most plain of interfaces, there were some streaming radio stations, but no user “influenced” content.
The innovative concept of voting up or down on the streaming music and the “A.I.” of the service adjusting the content to the user’s liking is still found in many of today’s music streaming services.
(12) Wikileaks – Founded by Julian Assange, a controversial figure in his own right, and still holed up in the Embassy of Ecuador in London, his website has become the political, governmental, and national security establishment’s worst nightmare.
Loved or hated, Wikileaks is the first controversial selection in this list due to the nature of the work it does and the subversive and hacking methods it may employ to acquire that content.
(11) The Pirate Bay – The second controversial entry on the list, advocates the concept of an open platform and giving voice to groups who challenge cultural and legal principles.
Unlike Napster and other similar sites that shared music, video, or other digital content illegally, the Pirate Bay was the most famous “Search Engine” of the Peer to Peer (P2P) file sharing crowd.
(10) Info.cern.ch – Who? That is probably the first question most ask. This genuinely groundbreaking site was created by Tim Berners-Lee (Father of the web) in 1989 at the CERN research center in Switzerland.
Info.cern.ch is the home of the first website and still accessible in its original glory. It’s a bit basic by today’s standards, but it renders correctly on every size screen.
Who would have thought that in 1989 Responsive Design was already in style?
(9) eBay – eCommerce was not invented on eBay, but eBay made popular the open digital marketplace for sellers and buyers.
People have built businesses on eBay from a hobby or from the need to sell a few items to the pay the rent.
Regardless of how some sellers (and buyers) perceive the marketplace today, it is a pioneer in open eCommerce for all. To use a buzzword in tech, eBay democratized eCommerce.
(8) Drudge Report – The website made famous by the Monica Lewinsky scandal, creates very little original content (it mostly links to other news outlets), has a design that has changed little since 1997, but it makes the list.
One could argue that Matt Drudge popularized clickbait as the site relies on tantalizing headlines to maintain its Top 30 of all news sites ranking on Alexa.
Provocation gets traffic, and the Drudge Report is the king of the hill with extended user engagement per visit than most other news sites can only dream about (as estimated by Alexa).
(7) Yahoo – Remember when Yahoo was your go-to site to find information on the web? Unless your age is closer to collecting social security than your High School graduation, probably not.
The internet was chaos, a collection of sites, many not interlinked. It is easy to take for granted today that Google, Bing, and even Yahoo will find you about anything you are looking for with a proper search term.
But that wasn’t the case in 1994, and Yahoo built the first directory to help users find relevant web content. An outmoded idea today, but Yahoo created the building block that makes the Internet so successful. Search!
(6) Craigslist – Looking for a job, a car, or used furniture in the Sunday classified section of your town’s newspaper. The nostalgia of it all.
Craigslist brought that to a streaking halt by creating a digital version of classifieds. If free news content wasn’t enough to break the hometown newspaper, the loss of classifieds ads revenue was the final nail in the coffin for many.
(5) YouTube – Founded in 2005 as a video sharing site, and in the early years often criticized for hosting illegally obtained content, it now makes global stars of content creators.
While the production standard for “quality” content today rivals standard Television programming, it is still possible for anyone with a smartphone or a GoPro (action Camera) to load up content and get an audience.
It even has made Millionaires out of living at home high school students!
(4) Facebook – Two Billion Plus users can’t be wrong!? Or at least it is the new vice in our lives (it is better than cigarettes…). Facebook’s reach is staggering.
Started as a College project to profile classmates, it is now the world’s most extensive social network. For better or worse, people use it because everyone else is on it, and Facebook is one the easiest ways to stay connected.
We can thank Alexander Graham Bell for being able to talk to each other around the world. But no person has created more opportunity for “friendships” around the world with people they never physically met than Mark Zuckerberg.
(3) Wikipedia – Remember going to the library to research a topic? Maybe you even bought an encyclopedia from a door to door salesperson. Wikipedia changed all that.
As an open, crowdsourced collection of information, it has its flaws. For academic work, it is highly suspect, and articles often can have missing vital details, wrong context, or may even be completely false.
But the immediacy of content updates and the millions of niche entries that it makes possible, keep it a perennial go-to site for users. Just make sure to confirm the References!
(2) Amazon – Time Magazine proclaimed Jeff Bezos Person of The Year in 1999! Not even Time Magazine could have envisioned what Amazon has accomplished since then.
The company has wholly changed shopping and buying behavior, uprooted retail, changed business plans, and became a force in streaming TV and Movies and is the first streaming service to garner Oscar Nominations (and winning two of them).
The company has so much influence now that even a trademark application for a new service moves the stock market!
To host and manage the content, the company built their own data and computing centers. Ironically, Amazon’s ever growing need for computing resources spurned a division called Amazon Web Services (AWS). And it is monetizing that business unit to third parties with a higher profit than its primary business of online retail.
AWS now counts over 1,000,000 active users for websites and services by many leading brands. It has become so massive, that if there is a service outage, it can impact the average internet user’s access to sites and services.
(1) Google – It’s a verb now! Technically the practice of verbing is called anthimeria; it is the ultimate form of brand value. Today we FedEx, Superglue, Photoshop, Taser, Velcro, TiVo, and still Xerox.
On the internet, we Google, and the company turned Yahoo’s innovation (organizing the chaos) into an A.I. powered search for all information.
How often do you get the feeling Google already knows what you are searching for? It has received and stores more user generated data than most anyone else on the Internet.
Marketers try to game the system; companies build websites to be “Google” friendly, virtually no business that relies on the Internet believes it can do without Google optimization.
And all its “side” projects such as Android, Gmail, G-Suite, Google Cloud, Google Photos, and so much more are designed to further the branding and integration into search, the bread and butter revenue stream for Google!
An Impressive List That Transformed the World
Time Magazine selected an impressive list of Internet pioneers. Just like its Person of The Year selection, that at times includes news noteworthy but very undesirable selections, this Top 15 lists has some “questionable” entries.
Wikileaks and The Pirate Bay fall into this group, but for better or worse, their impact on the Internet deserve a spot on the list.
Overall, Time Magazine did a great job selecting the Top 15 Most Influential Websites. One can argue about placement, and for sure a few may have been left off the list.