Where Are They Now?The top sites of January 1996

The folks at Media Metrix have been in the business of measuring Web traffic since 1996. In Internet time that’s about 1929 (think dog years). Needless to say, they’ve seen their share of changes in the top domains and in the usage patterns of the nation’s growing online population.

In the past three years, the number of households with PCs has increased by 40 percent from 35.4 million in 1996 to 37.7 million in 1999, according to Media Metrix. In the same time period, the number of households with modem access has more than doubled from 18.2 million in January of 1996 to 37.7 million in January of 1999.

The biggest demographic change in that time period has been the close of the Internet gender gap. It started as an 82/18 male female percentage in 1996, and it now stand at 50/50, according to Media Metrix.

The Internet traffic patterns of 1996 are almost unrecognizable today. The 15 most-visited sites in 1996 were dominated by .edu domains, ISPs, and navigation sites. There were no e-commerce sites among the top 15.

Compare this to 1999. Nearly all of the top sites in January of 1999 offer content, communications, community, and commerce, according to Media Metrix. The top .edu domain is the University of Michigan at No. 92. Only three of the top 15 sites from January of 1996 remain in the top 15 as of January 1999. They are AOL, Netscape, and Yahoo.

Steve Coffey, executive VP of Media Metrix, pointed out that the properties that have stood the test of time are actually new media companies, not new media divisions of traditional companies.

“Many of the companies defining the Internet today did not even exist in 1996,” he said.

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