There is a great amount of nostalgia that exists today as we look back to simpler times when we were all younger and yearn for that time. There are also a large number of people, some of whom are now adults, that have never known a time without the Internet and the conveniences that it offers. A generation ago the technology that we used was nowhere near what it is today and so were the websites that we visited. Today, we take a retrospective look back at what the popular websites were 20 years ago, that is the year 2000.

20 Years Ago Seems Like A Long Time

Twenty years ago in 2000 I was in high school. I almost can’t believe I just wrote that. I was on the Internet but I needed a dial-up modem and since my dad was running a business he needed to keep our one phone line open so I didn’t spend a lot of time online at home. Most of my online time came at school where I had two computer classes, C++ programming and the Cisco Networking Academy. 

These were different times. My best friend swore by when it came to web searching and I used Altavista, now a part of Yahoo. That might have been because they had a translation option that made my French class which I was taking just so I could go to France and be of age to consume alcohol just a bit easier. Three years of high school French and I can still barely speak a lick of it. Sorry Ms. Flinchbaugh. That service became a part of Yahoo and now is a service on Bing. Outside of that, I really didn’t spend a lot of time on the Internet.

What Was The Most Popular Website?

So, twenty years ago what were the sites that Americans who were able to go online visiting? Fortunately for us the Washington Post has been recording this since the 1990s. The top site was AOL. That should be no surprise as AOL was the primary way that most people accessed the Internet and most people did not bother to change their default homepage. 

AOL of course still exists today as a web portal but high speed Internet has supplanted their dial-up service and made it extinct just like the dodo bird. The same goes for some of the popular software like the AOL Instant Messenger that you could download on their website. For many people that was the first program that they downloaded from the Internet. And of course who can forget the famous “You’ve Got Mail” soundbyte that played when you opened your email. It seems that we were impressed much more easily back then.

What Else Was Popular?

Coming in second was Yahoo, at the time the most popular search engine in the world and a site that hosted a free email service and provided access to the news. The site was very cluttered but that was just the way sites looked back then. Microsoft came in next. This was not the news and email service MSN but instead Microsoft’s corporate page and this is what it looked like back in 2000. It was set as the default page for anyone who used Internet Explorer (and that was a lot of them) and again people did not either know or care to change their default page. There were some nice things like notifications of software updates or major virus threats but also the ability to download beta versions of software. Both of these sites still exist today though Yahoo has taken a significant fall from grace, partly due to some poor business decisions and partly due to poor cyber security precautions.

Fourth was Excite. Excite was another search engine and following that at fifth was Lycos, yet another search engine. It should be no surprise that Larry Page and Sergey Brin chose a search engine as a way to get into the tech world. Both of these websites still exist today as search engines and web portals but with much less viewership, partially thanks to Google, which also existed at the time but was not yet the giant that it would become.

The Bottom Half Of The Top 10 With Some Familiar Names

Sitting at sixth was, a content aggregation site that had topic areas for 1,800 different topics. You could say it was a primitive Wikipedia in a way. The site was active until 2017 when it became and its business model was changed to focus on more niche topics. Coming in seventh is a name that would be familiar to us today and that is Amazon. Eighth was Disney and ninth was the tech news website CNET

Disney used their website for much of the same reasons as they do today, that is to promote their products and to encourage visits to their theme parks. This is what their website looked like back in 2000. Amazon would look somewhat familiar to today’s visitors but at the time they had just expanded from being only a bookseller (yes kids, we used to read paper books back in the good ol’ days) to other things like movies in the new DVD format. The Amazon logo that you know today was introduced in 2000 but they came under fire for having too many tabs at the top of the page to the point of overload

Rounding out the top 10 was another site that is familiar to us today, eBay. eBay was one of the few companies to survive and thrive through the dot-com bubble burst, even though much of their revenue came due to the market for Beanie Babies toys (remember them?). At the time eBay had 12 million users and 4.5 million items up for auction. You can see what their website looked like in 2000 on this site. Among the odd items that went up for auction that year was a half eaten piece for french toast from Justin Timberlake that was left behind after an interview at a New York radio station for $1,025 and the meaning of life for $3.26. That is less than it cost for Monty Python to tell you, unless you could catch it on TV.

It seems in some ways things stay the same as plenty of names that we would recognize in 2020 litter this list as Amazon and eBay are still on the top 10. The others have been replaced by names like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia and Google and in 20 years those sites might be replaced by yet others. It is just proof that it is hard to get to the top and even harder to stay there.

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