The Top 10 Websites in the World

The Top 10 Websites in the World 560x220

Quick. Without looking, name the top 10 websites in the world, by number of visitors – in order.

Now, let’s see how you did.

Over the past month, these sites below have been pinged more on a daily basis than any of the other more than half a billion websites on cyber-Earth. Sure you know a few of the top 10. Many of you know upwards of six or seven of them. But probably not all of them, and likely not in order.

Or how many visitors each welcomes, and what that means for each site’s bottom line. How do they all make money anyway and how much?

You can’t miss the advertising on all of these sites, and yes, that is a primary driver (in most cases the primary driver) of income. But there’s usually something else going on. A little diversification. Why? Because ads just aren’t cutting the mustard and everybody’s looking for additional streams of revenue. In fact, some of these firms are losing money, believe it or not.

So, if you’re working on that blog, uh, make sure you hold onto that day job.

1. Google (google.com, est. 1998)

Google Logo 560x234As you might have suspected, the search engine juggernaut, Google, is the most visited website in the world, but not all the time. It jockeys, albeit slightly (five times in 2012), with the second horse below.

What does it mean to be the “greatest” website in the world?

To begin, as this goes to press, almost 50% of all Internet users yesterday visited Google. That includes Google’s gmail, documents, translate and all those other Google products, as well as searches. Those visitors stayed for an average of 12 minutes and 12 pageviews.

How many people and how much time is all that? It's hard to pin down an exact number, and there is no official free stat out there in the online ether, either. But here is an estimate: If “on a typical day, 82% of adult Internet users use the Internet,” and there are about 2.3 billion global Internet users, then nearly 950 million people are on Google in one form or another every day, for a total of 11 billion minutes (the amount of time in 21,700 years or so).

And how does Google convert all those numbers into cash? Advertising. That is pretty much it. Ninety-five percent of the search engine’s bottom line is derived from ads. First, there are those search-related “sponsored links” that appear on the top, right and bottom of the results page. Then there’s the ubiquitous AdSense which saturates the Internet, and the blogosphere in particular, with those text-interrupting line ads.

The other five percent comes from subscriptions and fees, for Google Apps, airfare search software and other sales.

Contrary to popular belief, Google does not charge websites to appear higher in your results. In fact, an entirely different algorithm is used, and it’s a little bit freaky.

So, what is the bottom line then? In 2011, Google found nearly $38 billion in revenue and a rather hefty profit of $9.7 billion. With those numbers, Google is more exception than rule, as no other site in the top 10 comes close to these stats.

2. Facebook (facebook.com, est. 2004)

facebook logoThe numbers on Facebook, the world’s biggest online social network, are in some ways equally astonishing.

Yesterday, 45% of Internet users checked into Facebook, and we’re talking 99% of them going solely to facebook.com. With Google above, only 75% go to google.com, the flagship site losing share to gmail, docs, maps and more. Thus, the actual address “facebook.com” is the No. 1 address on the web.

Facebook gets another marketing leg up on Google with users averaging twice as much time on the site: more than 23 minutes a day, totaling a composite time of 43,000 years. And these users – 900 million of them – all have accounts, unlike the search engine’s.

That all adds up to a goldmine for advertisers, from whom, like Google, Facebook makes the majority of its cash – 85% of its bottom line in 2011, all from those relatively non-intruding mini-ads on the right side of your timeline.

The other 15% comes mostly from Facebook credits, used to play those games like Words with Friends, CityVille, Texas HoldEm, the rest of the top 10 and the thousands of others.

With Facebook recently going public, the public finally has its hand on some concrete revenue numbers, like the $3.7 billion the company grossed in 2011, and its $1 billion profit.

3. YouTube (youtube.com, est. 2005)

YouTube logoEverybody’s favorite video hosting site is YouTube, owned by Google, who bought the firm in 2006 for $1.7 billion. Add those two sites together and it’s a runaway.

But, standing alone, YouTube still attracts a third of Internet users every day, each visitor averaging 20 minutes a pop thereabouts. More than four billion videos are streamed daily.

So, how does YouTube make money with all of those views?

It doesn’t. YouTube has been losing money for years – even as late as 2010 – and only just last year may have popped its head over the line that separates profit and loss. In other words, YouTube is not a viable company on its own.  In fact, without Google’s backing over the past five plus years, it’s possible there would be no “YouTube” at all.

But there is revenue of course, and the future, where YouTube seems to have an edge on the top two. The site makes money on, you guessed it, advertising, but unlike the others this advertising is primarily video – from commercials embedded in the videos themselves to video ads (as opposed to static ones) in the usual locations (at the top of search results and in the right column). And of course, there are those annoying rectangle ads that pop-up at the bottom of the video you're watching.

There’s more: agreements with megastars (including Madonna and Jay-Z) for premiere content, partnerships with media giants (MGM, CBS) for streaming movies and television programming, and online movie rentals.

Put it all together and estimates have YouTube bringing in about a billion and a half in cash, gross, as it turns the corner to profit.

4. Yahoo! (yahoo.com, est. 1995)

Yahoo logoNever mind bing.com (the Microsoft portal is ranked 30th). Yahoo! plays second search engine fiddle to Google with one-fifth of the world’s daily Internet users stopping by.

While Google is a behemoth in services offering, Yahoo!, does something very basic that extends its reach to the masses:  it’s an in-house original and secondary content and news provider, and really, the most visited one in the world.

Both search engines employ search advertising (ads related to your search), but Yahoo! utilizes far more non-targeted spots. The difference is immediately apparent when you look at the home pages (Yahoo!, Google). Yahoo! leverages its content for more marketing opportunities: every article sports at least one relatively large and colorful ad.

Ninety percent of the $5 billion Yahoo! took in, in 2011 comes from advertisers. According to Yahoo! Research itself, the remaining 10% in revenue trickles in from several sources.

The company banks coin for providing additional email services, extended Flickr storage, commercial listings in the Yahoo! directory, and a cut of anything bought from merchants linked to by Yahoo products (Shopping, Real Estate, Autos, and more).

The bottom line here? About a billion in annual profit.

5. Baidu (baidu.com, est. 2000)

baidu logoBaidu rounds out the global top five. That makes three search engines in the top five, but the last one we’ll encounter in the top 10.

Baidu.com is China’s most visited site and search engine. From an American perspective, it’s fair to say Baidu is the real “Google of China,” moreso than Google China itself (google.com.hk is 19th in the world). Baidu looks and acts, political and censorship nuances notwithstanding, just like Google, but with hanzi, or Chinese characters.

But, due to language, those censorship issues and the insular nature of the Chinese commercial landscape, Baidu’s global reach is profoundly stunted. Remove those limiting factors, and the search engine might very well be number one.

As it is, Baidu captures 78%, and growing, of the largest Internet market in the world (with more than twice as many users as second place United States), but that translates to just 11% of the Internet’s daily traffic, or about 210 million users. Visitors average more pageviews (18) and spend more time (13.5 minutes) on Baidu than Google, too.

So how does Baidu print paper? Where is what is looking like Baidu’s $3 billion+ in revenue and  $1.5 billion+ in profit coming from? Almost all of it, 99% of it, solely from online marketing, mostly in the form of display ads.

But enough about advertising. The No. 6 website in the world doesn’t post a single ad. It’s not even a commercial site.

6. Wikipedia (wikipedia.org, est. 2001)

wikipedia logo 560x272According to Wikipedia, Wikipedia is owned by the Wikimedia Foundation, which is essentially a not for profit charity. But heck, somebody’s got to pay for the “The Free Encyclopedia,” the largest encyclopedia in human history.

A combination of millions of dollars in public donations and millions of valuable hours in volunteer writing and editing make it happen.  Compared to the other sites in the top 10, Wikipedia operates on a shoestring budget.

The latest figures have the Wikimedia Foundation pulling in $27 million in tax-deductible contributions for the period July – December 2011, most to date. Over 100,000 registered users (of 17 million) are considered active editors, helping corral nearly 30 million pages.

Fourteen percent of the Internet browses those pages every day. That's more than Baidu, but Wikipedia's surfers are looking for something specific, and they average just about four pageviews, least in the top 10.

7. Windows Live (live.com, est. 2005)

Windows Live logoMicrosoft’s Live.com slides into seventh with 10.5% of Internet traffic, or just under 200 million global visitors a day. What is the poorly-branded Live anyway?

There is a comparatively small suite of products offered by Windows Live, including Messenger and SkyDrive, and portals to the Yahoo-like msn.com, but it’s Hotmail, still the world’s largest email service by number of users, that hogs up 90% of the visitations here.

For the most part, though, neither the email service nor Windows Live en total are moneymakers for Microsoft, just extensions of the tech company’s offerings.

While Live is lumped into the main Windows division (PC, OS, Software, Licensing) on a financial statement touting $4.6 billion in revenue and $2.95 billion in profit for the most recent quarter, the fact is, Live is a loser, and a mere bug on the windshield in the financial scheme of things. The latest data we were able to cull is from 2009 when Live lost $40 million on $520 million in revenue, all from online advertising.

Little has changed with the brand and its services since then, but soon “Live” will be dead. Microsoft is killing the whole confusing experiment, with the components living out their existences (until the next annoying corporate rebranding) on their own.

8. Twitter (twitter.com, est. 2006)

Twitter logo 2012Twitter accounts for just about 10% of the daily Internet community and according to one of many estimates, claims 900 million registered accounts, of which generally 250 million use the service at least once a month (they are “active”). That’s a nice customer base.

But, alas, Twitter is the third top-tenner losing money. Without venture capitalists and corporate investors injecting cash into the system year after year, Twitter wouldn’t fly.

The “SMS of the Internet” hasn’t profited yet, and brought in a meek $110 million in revenue in 2011, even while the company expanded on hopes for the future.

Those hopes might be well founded. Twitter has finally organized multiple revenue streams, including corporate-sponsored promoted tweets (at the top of tweet searches), promoted trends (in the trends list), licensing tweets to search engines and promoting a Tweeter as someone to follow.

9. QQ (qq.com, est. 1998)

QQ logoTencent’s QQ was launched as a Twitter-like messaging service but has evolved into an all-in-one Internet portal and the second most visited site in China. Here is where many Chinese (over 700 million users, with 145 million online at any time and a daily Internet tally of seven percent) “tweet,” use email, indulge in Facebook-like social networking, chat, play online games, shop and more.

QQ.com’s revenue comes from a diversity of sources, with, in a reverse of most of the websites on this list, just a small percentage coming from advertising.

The company sells “Q coins,” an online currency that pays for services, products and even cute, furry QQ merchandise.  Q coin use has grown so popular and has outgrown its original intention so much so that China’s Central Bank is concerned “that conversion between the Q-coin and the Yuan, if unchecked, would lead to dire economic consequences.”

Q coin purchases, mobile services, virtual goods, online gaming, fees for services and e-commerce make up the bulk of Tencent QQ’s revenue, which is estimated to be upwards of $6 billion in 2012, yielding a $1.5 billion profit.

10. Amazon (amazon.com, est. 1994)

amazon logo 560x204At last, we’ve reached No. 10, and the first site primarily dedicated to selling concrete items (along with copyrighted digital media).

Amazon may not have as much traffic as No. 1 Google, but it brings in a bit more money. The latest numbers look like $52 billion in revenue, but a much less impressive $520 million in profit for 2012, based on the first quarter.

According to quora.com, Amazon’s main business, E-Commerce, brings in the bulk of the cash. Then there’s “marketing and promotional services, such as online advertising, and co-branded credit card agreements.”

Six percent of the Internet window shops at amazon.com every day; that's about 115 million earthlings.


And because we go the extra bit at Gunaxin, here are the rest of the top 20, courtesy of alexa.com, “The Web Information Company,” which provides the rankings here and for millions of other sites. Alexa’s rankings are based on both average daily visitors and page views.

11. Blogger (blogger.com)

12. LinkedIn (linkedin.com)

13. Google India (google.co.in)

14. Taobao (tabao.com)

15. Sina (sina.com.cn)

16. Yahoo! Japan (yahoo.co.jp)

17. MSN (msn.com)

18. WordPress (wordpress.com)

19. Google Hong Kong (google.com.hk)

20. Google Germany (google.de)

Editor’s Note : Gunaxin finished just outside of the Top 20, we swear.

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