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The Internet

World Wide Web "Shrinking" 115

An anonymous reader wrote in "According to this article in the LA Times, the web is "contracting." No, the number of sites is not decreasing, but web users are visiting the same sites more often & other sites less often. Interesting. The article has some good stats. "
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World Wide Web "Shrinking"

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  • In the beginning, people tried everything under the sun, and a huge number of new sites sprang up overnight, spreading across the new terrain. Now we've been here long enough to see what will work and what won't, and the "newness" has worn off and people are actually looking at the quality of what they're seeing. People have realized that buzzwords like "consistency", "dynamic content", and so on are actually important. They realize that some sites are better than others and give them more of what they want and do it better than others. So they visit the good sites, and drop the bad ones. Good sites tend to have a wide audience, a lot of user loyalty (aka brand recognition) and good strategies for attracting new eyeballs. Bad sites lack all of those qualities. Presto, the audience coalesces around the few good sites and the bad sites are abandoned.

  • Back in the day, there wasn't _anything_ out there that made navigation easier, so you tended to just walk through links and see where it took you.. now that there are directories and search engines coming out of our ears, there's no reason to just walk links, as there was before..

    Of course, it's still fun just to goof around and see what you can find though :)

  • Given that the study claims to have tracked usage by time, this must have been somewhat controlled. Either people are reporting their own estimates of usage (which is naturally going to skew things), or monitoring software of some kind (browser plugin, otherwise) is being used -- and if the people know that they are being specifically monitored, this too might skew the results. In addition, such a study would be limited either by site, or ISP, or voluntary self-selection, or some other criterion that is not mentioned. I'm curious about the particulars.

    As for Yahoo!, well, doing... what? Navigating through a hierarchy of links, trying to desperately escape Yahoo! and find specific content? Checking delayed stock quotes? What, in particular? If, say, they're snagging users via online games and e-mail accounts, that may matter more than those who simply grab the latest delayed (oxymoron? eh) stock quotes and don't care for any other services -- or advertising -- provided.

    As for "contraction", sure. Seems plausible; some sites are going to be famous, and others not. More users are going to stay on the "famous" sites, now that they offer more services. Given that many new users mostly want basic information and services and aren't searching for, say, an online library of statistics papers to find the latest approaches to outlier detection on small datasets with no assumed prior distribution, or copies of the Federalist Papers, that's understandable.
  • It's not that people are changing their browsing habits, rather it's both the fact that people are spending longer online (thus having more time to go check out After Y2K or Slashdot) rather than just getting on to get a specific peice of information and also because the huge influx of newbies who want to go see all these sites they hear talked about.

    Imagine someone getting their first television set. They want to see 'friends' and 'ER' and all the shows that are popular that everyone talks about. After doing that, then they move to cable and check out lesser known shows on The Discovery Channel or the Sci Fi channel. Just as the popular shows on TV just get more and more popular even while more and more cable channels are being added with more and more different shows, websites on the internet are becoming more popular while it's still expanding.
  • "The narrowing focus means that mega-sites will dictate trends that emphasize convention while 'dissenters'--like small newspapers and public-access cable--will ultimately wield little influence."

    At least it's infinitely easier for the "dissenters" to get out there on the Web than in the traditional media. And it's easier still for the people who really want to find those "dissenters" to do so on the Web.

    Oh, wait, I forgot about paid placement on search engines.

  • English is a non-inflected Indo-European language... the key to the punchline is the word "late", meaning dead. the humor comes from the thought of someone actually exploding after seeing one too many lame sites. Hope this helped.
  • 7. There are a few unexpected entries -- (????), ? Lends to questioning how broad of a sample
    the study used.

    I think you need to get out of the office a little more often. is a pretty major women's community site / portal.
  • I actually heard about it through "Visual Developer" mag which I only picked up because it had something on visual development in Linux, and something about GNOME (which I still can't pronounce correctly).

    As a result (since even before I knew this I only visited one or two sites/day unless I was looking for something specific), this is one of the only sites that I even visit anymore. I'm also getting a serious sense of deja vu writing this post for some reason.

    Life may be worth living eventually,

  • I haven't been online quite as long, but I've still been on for much of the 90s, and I have to agree to a great extent.

    When I first got online, there were some directories of sites and such. Gopher still worked quite well, too, in the non-web-world. So I browsed through things quite a bit. There were a few places I'd got all the time, but mostly I browsed from site to site. There were no "portals" where 1) my browsing options were more limited (despite the seemingly large number of links) and 2) where I could get "all my info at once" -- when I had to actually search for things on my own, I found interesting sites that I didn't expect to find.

    Since then, the number of truly geeky personal pages has been replaced by tons of teen-age goth-girl wanna-bees complaining about their sucky families, life of depression, etc. (of course such problems exist, but you have to admit, the number of cookie-cutter home pages has gone up ... black, lavender, javascript role-overs, similar-sounding web-journals, framesets, etc.)

    Even though my "usual" browsing is now more limited -- gotta see /., t.o., freshmeat, userfriendly, and a cast of other things daily, the most rewarding browsing still occurs 'off the beaten path'. Too bad, as was mentioned, there are so many dead links on sites/pages that haven't been updated forever (I, too, am guilty of this at times).

    Anyway, time for cookie-cutter-me to stop rambling.

    - Andra


  • saturation, read about it.
  • What would be interesting is to see how tied this trend is to the rate new people are getting onto the web.

    I hypothesize that most of the people getting online for the first time are not technologically oriented (read as: non-technical, older generation). This group is already swayed by standard marketing campaigns, which would give an edge to the large companies posting their URLs on TV, the newspapers, etc.

    I, for one, still visit a shotgun pattern of sites (usually from an altavista search); as do many of my friends (generally technical). At the same time, my older relatives (parents, aunts, uncles) tend to find a program on TV and plug in its URL w/o any surfing.

    Just a thought.
  • Do you suppose that the degradation of the search engines is causing people to let other people steer them around the web? I know I've been very frustrated by some of the search engings (not Google, of course) responses to my queries (150,000 hits on a 8 word query... Sites that are inforeign languages, sites that have a word in them, but are unrelated to my search... etc.) I mean really... how 'bout an AND, rather than an OR?
  • At my last job, I set up a news server and a few Perl scripts to grab content off about three or four sites: here, Dilbert, BBC News and um.. that's about it. All my mailing lists fed in as well. Once that was working, I only browsed for work-related things (software, documentation, etc.) I rarely even clicked through to other sites.

    The reason? I couldn't be bothered to browse. I think people are realising that the web is really about as exciting as the telephone network, and are using it as such... calling who they know occasionally, rather than phoning everyone on the planet.

    In terms of number of hits versus site-count, the roportion of hits going to minor sites is probably dropping, while proportion of hits to the big portals is rising.

  • You see, there's a hell of a lot of JUNK out there on the web. And eventually people with a given interest are going to get tired of hitting every site they can on a given topic. They don't want junk, they want actual information on whatever subject(s) they're interested in.

    I no longer try to look at every SCA or Amber page going. I keep track of my own barony and kingdom pages, and sometimes things like the Rialto archives and Cariadoc's Miscellany, because I KNOW those are good sources of info that are going to be there tomorrow.

    Likewise, sometimes I'll hit "random" on the Golden Circle, but not always. Some of those pages are really useless. I check those that are updated frequently.

    And yes, I'm a slight bit of a hypocrite, but until I can get my stuff off of GeoCities, I'm not updating it. :P
  • Check MediaMetrix []
  • This is a very normal process. When I moved to a new city 5 years ago, everything was new. My wife and I investigated every mall, home improvement store, and "good" restaurant we could. As time progressed, we stopped going "everywhere" and settled in on the few places that were "comfortable" or "convenient" for us.

    The internet is the same way. Everything was new to everyone at first, but people gravitate to what is comfortable or convenient for them. I know that personnally I only visit certain websites that meet my personal set of criteria. (They have to load the page I select in 10 seconds or less, the information I'm seeking must be readily available: 60 seconds or less, ordering of products must be readily understood and easily accomplished. Security and privacy are very much required.) Of course, my wife has her own set of criteria when she's online as I'm sure everyone does.

    The web is an evolving place and I have to laugh at the "studies" that predict $x of advertising or sales on the 'net in 5 years or whatever. It'll be another 5 years before the net is a stable place that can be predictable.

    Dave Bennett
    Inland Truck Parts Company
  • Well, I've never heard of either of those either, and I practically live on the web (there is nothing else to do at work). Another one I'd never heard of was -- I'm thinking it might be something that someone paid to get on the list.
  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Monday August 23, 1999 @12:10PM (#1729553)
    While "data" is not the plural of "anecdote", I'm not sure the web is shrinking, but my web has shrunk drastically. I believe this to be a generalized phenomenon, which can be expressed as follows: the size-of-ones-view-of-the-web is inversely proportional to time spent surfing it.

    My first experience of the WWW was in 1993/4. My first impression was "this is just like FTP or Gopher, but it decodes .GIFs and uses nice fonts!". There were only a few sites up, and I navigated everywhere from site to site, just seeing what was out there - content didn't matter as much as the novelty of going from one site to another with the click of a mouse.

    Over the next year, people invented, and I discovered, search engines. "Cool! I can type in keywords and get something reasonably related to what I'm looking for!" Maybe my friend had put up a site with links to his friends' sites. Many "sites" were merely lists of links that the owner found interesting. Random surfing was still king. There was a wonderful War Games-esque feeling to be had from typing "let's play global thermonuclear war" into a window and getting results back that pointed to .mil sites :-)

    Over time, I found myself visiting certain sites more often - they got bookmarked. I used a search engine as my default home page, but still spent most of my time feeding it interesting words to see what would come back, or words pertaining to technical questions to see if I could find answers.

    Flash forward to today - I now find myself visiting only a handful of sites daily. Slashdot for tech news, a couple of major commercial media sites for local/national coverage, a financial site to get business news, and that's about it. I don't like watching the same news footage ten times during the evening TV news broadcast; why would I want to read the same news story ten times a day? There was an earthquake in Turkey. A buncha people died. What can FooNews tell me about that that BarNews won't?

    I can count the number of sites I visit on a daily basis on one hand. I can count the total number of sites I visit on a typical day using both hands.

    I suspect I'm not alone. Your stereotypical chatroom pornhound - does he really need to visit 2000 porn sites a day? Can he keep track of 50 "chat through the web" sites a day? No. He'll find one or two that he likes, and stick with them until he gets bored and moves on. A soccer mom - maybe a "moms with kids" bulletin board, and a few news sites. Her kid - a few entertainment sites, maybe the high school's forum page, and porn after he's disabled the censorware.

    For most interactive sites, you find a community and then stay there until you find something more interesting. If the content is sufficiently compelling, (e.g. /.), you stay forever. Most other sites are static; a corporation's press releases occur weekly/monthly, and any given "this is my dog" page (which might be interesting to you if it's your best friend's dog!) can only be expected to change every few months, as most people don't change their families/pets/lifestyles on a daily basis - in either case, why waste time visiting a static site daily, since 90% of the time, nothing will have changed?

    I doubt that I'm a regular visitor to more than 2 or 3 of the top 50 sites. I doubt I'll ever visit more than 10-20 of 'em. But I do know that - compared to my old days, where I'd surf to dozens of sites in a random walk through the web in an afternoon - well over 90% of the traffic on port 80 associated with my top 50 sites.

    Am I alone?

  • Popularities of documents (based on URLs) have been known for years to follow a "Zipf-like" distribution (loosely stated, popular pages are REALLY popular, unpopular pages are REALLY unpopular; formally, the probability of retrieving a particular page is inversely proportional to its rank), and it has been generally agreed that sites (for whatever definition of "site" you want to choose - is a different site than follow a similar distribution.

    Some recent studies (see CS-TR-98-016 at []) have indicated that, in general, the "slope" or "skew" for documents is actually decreasing, meaning the more popular documents seem to be (from a network perspective) "less more popular" ;-) than they used to be. This makes sense if you assume that people are using bigger browser caches (fewer repeated retrievals of the same URI are needed), and keeping in mind that sites are moving session state information that used to be embedded in the URI into cookies (thus reducing the number of "tail" documents that would have been hit once and only once).

    The problem with popularity profiles is that they are generally not reflective of how much content is being disseminated - if I want my site to attract twice as many "hits", I just have to embed twice as many images in each of my web pages, then tell everyone they're "necessary for proper layout" so people don't get suspicious.

    In summary, I'm not at all surprised by these findings, but I doubt the study would stand up to rigorous peer review; I would be curious to see the actual charts-n-graphs, which are _FAR_ more instructive than just "top 50, top 100, top 10%" numbers. Unless one of the distribution is super-skewed (Zipf exponent is less than -1.0), this is probably just part of the normal osciallation of popularity and centralization/decentralization that we've seen since the dawn of knowledge. (How's that for putting a grandeur spin on it?)

  • Sorry, I meant CS-TR-98-023
  • This article begs the question of how this polling was done. I've always held such surveys in low opinion. How can something as eclectic and democratic as the web be polled without a great degree of error.

    I'm sure a great deal of people visit the same sites, but I'm curious how big of a pool would need to be sampled before this could be reasonably measured.
  • This article is trying to read too much into vague results; at best, all they can say is that portals are portals. It looks to me like someone got ripped off by funding a useless study. Easy money for the researchers though, eh?

    One thing that I have definitely noticed recently is that it has become effectively impossible to find anything useful on the net. Back in my undergrad days if I tried to find information on anything all I had to do to find it was to type some creative synonyms in a search engine. Now everything I am referred to is either a useless 3 line blurb from zdnet (complete with 12 ads and a popup window) or an 'error 404'. I have given up on trying to find useful things on the net, unless I have in hand an url to a site that can send me to links.

    I know there has to be much, much more information out there now than there was three years ago. Unfortunately most of the net is uncatalogued by the existing search engines. I think this is much more of a reason for the lack of diversity; people now surf the net looking for news and diversion rather than to learn or do research. Search engines reflect this in their queries. These queries become the basis for this news story. Bah.

  • So, I actually went and *looked* at the mediametrix web site, and saw their list of the top-50 web sites. Note the following observations:

    1. Sites #2, #3, & #4 are AOL, MSN and Geocities -- sites where individuals can put up their own web pages.

    2. Out of the top 10 sites, 5 are primarily search engines (yahoo, go, lycos, excite, angelfire).

    3. Another 2 of the top sites, and are (I believe) the default start page for two very popular browsers.

    4. The first e-commerce site is, at #11 with at #35. The second most-popular commerce site is

    5. Free-email sites, such as (and are prominent in the top 50.

    6. The first 'news' site is msnbc, at #24, followed by zdnet at #26, pathfinder at #28, at #30, at #31.

    7. There are a few unexpected entries -- (????), ? Lends to questioning how broad of a sample the study used.

    So, I would argue that the following are more adequate conclusions:

    ** Many of the most popular web sites are used only to find other websites -- either as search engines or start pages.

    ** The sites that provide access for user webpages, such as aol, msn and geocities, are very popular -- meaning that lots of people are doing their own web pages.

    So, I would argue that rather than a contraction in web sites, we're actually seeing an expansion -- sure the number of companies hosting these sites is pretty compact, but there's a lot of interest in what amateurs are putting on the net! AOL was able to beat the pants off Amazon, BarnesandNoble, ebay and expedia, COMBINED, just by allowing their users to publish their own web pages!

    The fact that the search engines are so popular indicates that many people are visiting sites that aren't the big popular ones (those are typically already bookmarked, or obvious:

    So, rather than saying that 'the web is contracting', with the connotation of usage on the web shifting toward a few sites, I'd argue that it's expanding because individual people are creating sites and other people are visiting those sites *more* than they are most of the 'mainline' sites.

  • "I have to laugh almost every day when I read about some new amazing life-changing possibility soon to be brought to us via the web. The other day it was something about controlling your home remotely. The people who are supposedly going to use and benefit? The same bozo's whose VCR clock has been flashing for 7 years... Yeah, Right!"

    hahaha.. so true man!
  • What, then is the motivation to have a site? Is it to get visitors? To help people? When mammoth commercial sites with their glaring banners are blocking the view of the average user, are either of these goals met?

    I hate conservatives and I hate liberals, but most of all,
    I HATE extremists! Kill them all!
  • Almost true. Yahoo started out as a way to find things, but realized the real money is to be made by keeping someone at their portal. Thus, the most popular searches often end up right at For example,,, free email accounts, chat services, and so on. One could easily argue that perhaps that was their original long term goal, but I doubt it.

    fink about it!
  • Damn memepool is why my bookmarks file is 500k, full of URLs for sites I just wanna have a link to in case I want to see it again someday, but will probably never will go to. I bet 100k of that are defunct sites now.

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
    -jafac's law
  • I am reminded of the time a few years back when the host of a NPR station's classical music show proclaimed the "death of Rock'n'Roll" - because only 5% of the songs on the playlist stations had been composed in the current year. He was oblivious to the fact that current RnR songs now had several decades of good stuff with which they were compeeting for "earballs" on the commercial stations.

    I heroically refrained from calling him up and declaring his classical music to be rotting in its grave, since 0% had been composed in the current year. B-)

    Regardless of how much of the phenomenon they report is a sampling artifact and how much is the result of a few good sites being so useful that they get a lot of repeat attention, at least one of their inferences is faulty:

    ... it suggests that the idea of the Web as a guarantor of infinite choice and endless serendipity is hardly a divine right. Does this ... actually threaten the vibrant democratizing force the Web symbolizes and often embodies?

    What this misses is that the web remains un-gate-kept, and continues to grow. Commercial convenience sites may cause those pages they link to be found more quickly. But they can't stop ideas they dislike from reaching an audience by ignoring them - just as the editor-controlled mass media no longer can.

    Even if ALL the current convenience sites started systematically ignoring pages propagating a particular set of ideas or a particular side of an argument, they'd just discredit themselves and start another backlash, like the one against the establishment media.

    Meanwhile, ANYONE can start a NEW convenience site, just as anyone can post a page. Anyone can put up a page linking their favorite non-establishment postings and link to it from any page they control, mail the URL to their friends, pass out handbills, or scrawl it on bathroom walls. Any group of people with some shared non-establishment views can create a "literature" by mutually linking, making a bigger target to be found or linked into.

    Just as the Sturgeon's-law chaff didn't stop people from finding the good stuff before, so the flood of distractions doesn't keep people from finding the stuff they want now. There's more they don't want, but there's more of what they're looking for, too. And there's no concentration of the printing presses and broadcast outlets in the hands of a power-structure to bar entry.

  • ... people are stupid and have no idea how to use the internet or why they are on it in the first place.. "what's this thing, a search engine, I'll type in the first thing that pops into my head and then no bother following any of the links". It truely is like watching rats run around a maze isn't it guys?

  • The most annoying thing about Google is that you can't do NOT to exclude certain things.
  • by mnot ( 71203 )
    This is a well-understood phenomenon - a Zipf curve ( a graph which is a straight line when plotted on a double-log scale).

    What it means is that there are a very small number of sites that get a very large amount of attention/hits/bandwidth, a medium number getting a medium amount, and a very large number getting a very small amount.

    Zipf's law is seen in a number of facets of Web traffic, both within a site and across the Web (such as site popularity). When you take into account the nature of Zipf curves, it's not surprising that they're seeing more traffic on the high end; in the scale of things, this is just a blip.

    Jakob Neilson has a good intro to zipf's law in regard to Web traffic: []

  • They have a decent postcard service. They're also the people who sued Microsoft for sticking their postcard service in the default junk mailers list of outlook*.
  • My own experience seems to confirm the point the LA article is making, used to visit as many as a 100 sites a day in 94, only 10 at most these days. Still, the web will never constrict to such an extent that it will resemble the entertainment industry. Look at the cable companies, you have a choice of about 50 channels, and basically have to whatch whatever the lowest common denominator in your community can digest without overheating the synapses. On the web on the other hand, you only have to find a few thousand people out of hundreds of millions, with asimilar tastes to keep a site interesting, and full of new content. Personally I can't wait until broadband is here, and the same happens to the tv channels. (We'll prolly have the same thing that happened on the web, people will leave the major networks to stare for hours at a fish moving around on the screen, once the novelty wears off, we'll have better and better content, and more consolidation. As someone said, the content on most of the better sites (and the tv channels) is always being updated, so people won't search for new stuff just to get new material as they would in say... a bookstore, but we'll still have plenty of choice.

    Down with cable companies!!!

  • Am I alone?

    Nope. That pretty much describes my web history, with the additional note that although the total number of sites I touch is way down from a few years ago, the amount of information I glean (and use) from those sites has gone way up. Also the total number of hours has gone up - I don't have to pay long distance charges or hourly ISP fees anymore; I'm more likely to read that 10 page report.

  • Natural selection, the theory, holds that mutations occur by random chance, and that useful mutations are kept by natural selection -- ie, a mutation that doesn't result in an advantage dies out.

    In the web, there are many thinking persons behind both the sites and the surfers -- it is not by random chance, nor is it driven by survival of the fittest -- it's survival of the smartest, and the richest, which are not accidental occurances.

    No, the web was created (In the beginning DARPA created the ARPANET. And the ARPANET was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And many hackers moved upon the face of the packets. And Marc said, let there be graphics, and there were graphics. And the hackers saw the graphics, that they were good, and they called the graphics "the Web", and the rest they called e-mail and ftp......) Finish the analogy.

    Throughout the web's development, it has been guided by intelligence -- not chance.

    Lamar Owen
    WGCR Internet Radio
  • I subscribe to the theory that there is a static amount of quality on the internet. The more sites there are, the more the quality is diluted... But someplace like slashdot takes a lot more than its share of quality :)

    replace ,'s in e-mail address with .'s.
  • Does it bother anyone that this article compounds bad statistics with flagrant misunderstanding of the net?

    For instance: If the web is *growing* and the portals are *growing*, then the smaller sites are garnering more hits and a larger audience as well!

    Who would have thought we'd see the old rich-get-richer argument on the web? So what, they get an increasing percentage of eyeballs? Everyone else gets an increasing *number* of eyeballs, and the will continue as long as the "virtual economy" continues to expand. Must we create class divisions where none exists?

    Did anyone look at NetRating's top ten? Seven of them are portals, and only Yahoo can make the claim that it's the only place you need go. This is akin to saying:

    "Well yes, New York, gets more tourists then ever before, but look! 40% of them go to this one visitor information booth"! Geez, more people are looking for instructions on where else to go? Sounds like a crisis! Alert the media!

    "Should this trend accelerate",... says some Xerox Parc researcher, looking up from his Mac II, "The web could contract into a superdense web of virtual fibers around Yahoo and its sattelites. Their mega-content model would then take on a very ironic twist as their web servers would then collapse into an embryonic black hole." Professor speilman paused, lost in thought. "Of course, this might affect their future streaming content, and possibly destroy California."

    In other news, the DLA (Destroy Los Angeles) released a communique, threatening to leave their browsers on Yahoo until their demands are met. Local officials remain unruffled, saying that Los Angeles will remain the best city to live in in the nation, even if in a Black Hole. Mayor Chomsky declared a state of "mild alarm", and anticipating DLA's success, petitioned for a renaming of the city to "Philadelphia".
  • by miyax ( 32757 )
    So that's why my website isn't getting any hits : )

  • speaking of stat's, how many of us have seen and implemented Alexa's product? It tracks websites' characteristics and popularity. It also has an archive of many webpages so that, if you experience an "broken link", you might be able to find the link's resolution or retrieve the original from their archives. Venture to (unsolicited publicity from a fanatic!)
  • go to, download and utilize their product. It may aleviate this issue.

  • is a search engine. About also has what they call guides. Actual people who use the net. Enter a search and the first few list pages are sites reccommeded by the guides. There's other features also. Where we visit on the web makes a difference on how the web interacts with us. is a step in the right direction.
  • " ...and slashdot users are primarily responsible ... ;)"

    Heh - at least this is true for me.

  • I find myseelf going to only 4 or 5 sites a day sometimes...unless I have been temporarily inspired :)...the it kicks up to 100 or so a day for a few days
  • As Always...quality instead of quantity.
  • by BELG ( 4429 )
    I am sure this is true. But as with all other trends, this one will turn around too. And then back again. And then...... You get the point.

    I think it may have something to do with the "type" of visitors. In the old days the people visiting sites where the ones who had allready been on the net for quite some time and where used to it. Now alot of the users are new, and I dont find it very strange that they go to sites they know that they will find something on instead of trying searching for themselfes.

    I am sure this will change when this "wave" of new users has become veterans too.
  • I think it's just a temporary phenomenon. The web is still organizing itself, as the number of people and sites continue to grow so quickly. The big portals do little more than offer people one place to find what they're looking for.

    As more and more people get on the web, interest communities will become more common. Such as Slashdot for the linux/geek crowd, others will appear for other topics, and people interested in that topic will start using that site as the place to go for information, as it will provide better, more detailed, and more appropriate stuff while filtering out the garbage that the portals are still filled with.

    After all, would you go to Yahoo to get information about Linux when Slashdot is here? Not once you've found it.

    I think the portals are going to be the places of choice for the newer users, and those that just get onto the web sporadically, but more topic-based sites are likely to keep popping up and providing better hubs for that topic.

  • I visit and, and that is about it.

    Geez, looks like I need to get a life.
  • Note that there's not a word of where Media Metrix, Nielsen/NetRatings, et al. get their numbers from.

    Unlike Nielsen's TV counterpart, there's no easy way to make the figures they generate anything other than wild guesses. PHB alert: A sufficiently naive interactive account manager or media planner will believe anything you tell them, as long as there's a chart attached.

    I don't buy it.
  • Think of how many people's browsers default to Microsoft, AOL, or Netscape's homepage.

    Yea, I thought so...
  • I think that this is the only logical path really. The web is now being commercially exploited at an unprecedented rate . . . Why go to so-and-so's site if C|Net can pay for more exposure? Why send email to so-and-so if ZDNet has television shows for the sort of thing you're dealing with? This is an unfortunate inevitability IMO. We keep losing track of what's really important: communication. When commercialistic endeavors can crush small, but quality websites, it makes me wonder if the surfers, not the webmasters, should focus a little more on giving the little guy a chance. Especially when, trhough the web, the little guy can do a little more than a little.

    I hate conservatives and I hate liberals, but most of all,
    I HATE extremists! Kill them all!
  • Cause if it isn't, I can't remember hitting one of the top 50 sites in the last month (if doesn't count). And reading slashdot tends to diversify my surfing, since I get sent off all over the place to read the articles (first time at LA-Times this month).

    I think it is to early in the developement of the web to start pointing at these trends. Most people are still relative newbies, and tend towards the big sites they know.

    My experience is the opposite, new people to the web hit sites like yahoo and the search engines all the time, while people who are used to the web almost never touch them (and when they do they use the better but less fancy ones like Google and alltheweb).
  • I think it's got to do with their definition of 'site'. If they count Geocities as a single site, then most people surfing probably hit that site for a fair percentage of their time.

    However, I'm not suprised that people are becoming more discerning. How many "This is my dog" websites can you go and see without exploding?

  • Interesting, not altogether surprising. It is certainly more efficient for me to check the pages I know are useful than to try to find new ones.

    However, it isn't like the WWW has been in popular use for all that long. I have some doubt that "trends" really mean much. Perhaps I missed other references in the article, but it seems that they are only comparing this year to the last. In this industry, I think we can expect to see more changes in the near future that may affect web usage.

    Am I a cynic to wonder if some of the major portal sites had some influence in publicizing these statistics? ;-)

  • So is Microsoft. Right on.
  • I wonder if this information takes in to account that yahoo automatically update every 2 minutes or so? While I imagine this trend is true, I always wonder where they get the numbers. The previous article that refered to the web being similiar to looking up someones asshole make give us a clue. Incidently, where does slashdot land in this list?

  • The trouble with those statistics is that all sites are not equal. It should surprise no one that search engines are the most "popular" sites. That's like saying that "411" is the most popular phone number. It is like saying that the dictionary is the most popular book in the library. It isn't really a meaningful statement.

    If, for example, I read the New York Times site once a day, and then spend the rest of the day checking my Stock [], does that mean I like Yahoo a hundred times better than the Times? Do I prefer /. to Suck, because I check in here every couple hours while I only read Suck once a day (when they post new stories)?

    These statistics mean nothing, really.
  • The same *general* way, yes. But Nielsen (the TV incarnation) has historically taken great care to make their ratings base a truly random, representative sample of TV-viewing households in the US. That representativeness is what makes their numbers so valuable to the networks, and what I think is so hard to duplicate on the net.
  • I don't think this is just a trend that will go away or come and go as some have suggested. I think that it is just what people are used to. They get comfortable with a small subset of sites that they visit. You can see that from posts where people spend most of their time reading slashdot and 2-3 other sites.

    People tend to stick with what they know. In the 'real world' most people shop for mystery novels at Border's and Barnes & Noble, instead of going to the little Mystery Bookstore down the street. Most people watch the major networks more then the History channel. Most people go to the big multiplex theaters instead of the little art house that plays organ music between shows.

    They go to places they know or have heard about a lot. Thus it is not surprising that most people, who are casual internet user, tend to spend most of their time at the big name, well known sites.

    The reason that this trend is becoming more so is that there are many more casual users then a year ago, and there will be even more casual user next year. At some point it will level out, and it will change a little from year to year, but it will still remain generally true.

    This does not however lessen the impact of all the other sites out there. They will still exist and many of them will gain large amounts of traffic, because even if only one person in a thousnd visits a given site that makes for a lot of people when there are hundreds of millions out there.

    Most people follow the herd, some don't, and that will always be so.

  • Sorry about the abundance of commas. Not a good writing day ;)

    I hate conservatives and I hate liberals, but most of all,
    I HATE extremists! Kill them all!
  • After I found /. that was the place for me to read news. Now i rarely go to other places to read news.
  • Are giant websites (Yahoo, the biggest of them all) blocking anything? I find almost everything I want off the web at yahoo and northernlight, the only time I got to CNN or most other news sites is when slashdot points me there. The point is almost all websites have links to external sites, some like yahoo, exist solely for that purpose
  • If you're a fan of Stephenson's Snow Crash, this consolidation shouldn't come as any surprise. I view his Metaverse as a large portal site describing the physics of the world, interfaces for the avatars, and renting of real estate (a la Ultima Online). Each building is then a seperate site which implements the specified interface. Within the streets of the Metaverse, there is advertising - not much different from the banner ads at the top of this web page. The characters in the novel divide their time between wandering the streets and visiting connected sites.

    Snow Crash is only a story, but like many successful sci-fi novels, the characters in the story think and behave in ways familiar to today's reader. The best reasons for this is commercial self interest: if the readers don't identify with the characters, less copies will be sold. There are deeper reasons, however, for assuming that technology will not change human psychology [with the possible exceptions of gene modification or cyborgs]. Consider the Gilgamesh sagas or Greek tragedies. Despite major technological revolutions, these works are still readable and the personalities recognizable two to four thousand years later. The same will certainly be true for the next several decades.

    As a result, the consolidation of the internet is inevitable. I believe that television is the best metaphor, but consider newspapers for a minute. Whereas once several dailies competed in each of the major cities, most cities have only one paper. In the future, national papers may dominate the market. There are many economic reasons for this, but I'll focus on human psychology again. The role of geography has greatly diminished as a barrier to communication and friendships. Assuming that you still read newspapers, how often have you asked: 'Did you read that article in last Friday's New York Times?' In this way, a local or national paper such as the NYT helps define a common reference point in the communication between two people. As the culture continues to globalize, the scope and importance attached to brand names will grow.

    Likewise, how often have you asked a friend or colleague the question, 'Did you see ____ on television last night?' A discussion of the personal problems / sex life / clothing choices / etc. of the characters often follows. For the last few decades, television shows such as Seinfeld, Friends, and South Park have provided a reference point around which the human need to gossip may be satisfied. As an exercise, try spending a day without discussing anything you've heard in newspapers, television, movies, or the web. Now imagine meeting someone like this. You'd probably describe them as a social misfit - and you'd be right!

    There is no reason to assume that the internet will be any different. The chances are that you're already addicted to this place [] and many of your friends probably are too. Whether it is a mailing list, a portal site with instant messaging (AOL / Metaverse), or a chatroom and news board (/., Black Sun), a limited number of places will become the focal point around which the entire internet will be viewed.

  • #1: Microsoft
    #2: IBM DeveloperWorks
    #3: Sun

    #6: Slashdot

    #8: Error 404 File Not Found
    (hehe, thats what it says. but it points to borland)

    replace ,'s in e-mail address with .'s.
  • I first heard about slashdot through a PCMag Article, something to the effect of "Best Sites on the Web." The "News for Nerds" tagline interested me, I came here, and liked it. Thats what brought *me* here.

    replace ,'s in e-mail address with .'s.
  • Alone?

    Nope. That about sums it up.

  • It's probably related to the motivation to write free/open software!

    That is, the odds are only unsurmountable if you choose to play by the established rules (such as, security through obscurity, release late and infrequently, charge lots of money, restrict freedoms and so forth).

    QDMerge [] 0.21!

  • I have experimented with FrontPage 2000 at work (contrary to what my link below might indicate, oops!). In my defense, however, it was only to train some of my users on how to make web pages. The plan is to wean them off of FP2K and on to Notepad, eventually.

    I guess FP2k is okay for automating some of the repetitive and/or tricky stuff, but the default templates make pages that look like PowerPoint slides! Yuck!

    The disturbing thing to me is the idea that one has to spend lots of money and or time to have a good web site. That web site will look like all of the others (animated 'Catch The Monkey' ad banner at the top, links to other stories on the right, more ads in the middle... yuck) and it'll cost you $x00 for Office 2k to do it, and $x000 for NT server and IIS to run it and....

    Does that make sense? I think lots of those big sites aren't saying much besides "We are giving you a little bit of free stuff just to deliver your eyeballs or your personal information to big companies who also want to deliver your eyeballs to other big companies...." and "Wait here while big graphics and plug-ins download, unless you're not using the latest greatest web browser. In which case, go away."

    That's hardly a revolutionary message. My idea of quality has more to do with content than presentation, though. Vive la difference!

    QDMerge [] 0.21!
  • Exactly right!
    If we knew where the money for the "survey" came from then we'd know why the results were the way they are.
    It reminds me of when Gates required a poll that would say that about 85% of users prefered something and a couple of weeks later a poll comes out saying exactly that. It's only during the DOJ trial when we peruse the MS email that we see the money trail between the desire and the results.
    Media manipulation is exactly what it is. You don't need to invoke "Evolution of the Web" explainations. Simple greed explains much.
  • by grappler ( 14976 ) on Monday August 23, 1999 @11:37AM (#1729617) Homepage
    before the only sites with more than 1000 hits/day will be Slashdot, News sites, Disney, Microsoft, and Porno, Warez, and mp3 sites.

    And then of course the search engines to help you find Slashdot, News sites, Disney, Microsoft, and Porno, Warez, and mp3 sites.
  • Same here. I spend 75% of my time at only two sites, here and a Nintendo Message Board. Only late at night do I try and find new sites since I'm bored then. And I knew a guy who would start off everday at yahoo, go to the same link, to get to the same site every time. I guess he didn't relize he could bookmark stuff. But it wouldn't suprise me if more people didn't do the same thing, and that's why Yahoo gets so many hits.
  • Yeah, I hate the lack of traceable statistics....It's just another "dumbed down" article for the masses that makes it hard for us geeks to figure out what really is going on.

    One Q: Is that 35% of the same size pie from year to year? Probably not....

    There are ways of doing the data collection, though. Check out

    If you want to know how /. is doing try

    Forrest J. Cavalier III, Mib Software Voice 570-992-8824
    The Reuse RocKeT []: Efficient awareness for software reuse: Free WWW site
    lists over 6000 of the most popular open source libraries, functions, and applications.

  • Posted by Synsthe:

    Of course it's "contracting". There is no barrier to entry for anybody on the web, for personal sites, or business. It's the easiest place to put something up about yourself or your "business".

    With tools like FrontPage floating around too, it gets even easier to put something up that's got the quality level of a cow's paddock.

    So the sites that are frequented the most are going to be the ones with good content, good interfaces etc. Those sites are usually (usually) run by the big companies. Therefore it only makes sense that the flows of traffic would bend towards that area of the web.

    Mark Waterous (
  • when i got an internet account in 1995(or 94, 96?)
    I was used to browse more different sites per day

    now I have my prefered news site(try to guess which one ;-)
    files download site, etc.

    it's faster than searching the net by using big services like yahoo
  • by DonkPunch ( 30957 ) on Monday August 23, 1999 @11:42AM (#1729624) Homepage Journal
    > How many "This is my dog" websites can you go and see without exploding?

    10,372 according to the late Dr. Sebastian Markoff. :)
  • I found this link out there...

    TOP50 []

    And this one:

    TOP50 []
  • Success of commercial sites does not come at the expense of the rest of the web. It's all still there, and if you want to use it, you can. Since it's not commercial, it doesn't depend on 20,000 people reading it each day to continue being. If you're talking about competition between comercial sites, well, oh well, that's business in the fast lane.
  • Yeah.. from all those peoples who have problem with their Microsoft Products.

    I still think stats are BIAS.
  • However, I'm not suprised that people are becoming more discerning.

    Discerning? I don't think so. I think you just have these massive amounts of dummies coming online who don't know how to get anywhere. These are the folks who are running their 17 inch monitors at 640x480 with Win98 and a Start button as big as my shoe. Who will still be running IE5 in 2 years, because thats what was on their machine. Who, if they actually DON'T have AOL, have their start page set to their ISP, or Yahoo, etc, because thats how it came.

    I don't believe these statistics because the people who are being measured don't understand the web, and the people who write about them don't understand the damn thing either.

    I have to laugh almost every day when I read about some new amazing life-changing possibility soon to be brought to us via the web. The other day it was something about controlling your home remotely. The people who are supposedly going to use and benefit? The same bozo's whose VCR clock has been flashing for 7 years... Yeah, Right!

    "Cyberspace scared me so bad I downloaded in my pants." --- Buddy Jellison

  • Actually, Slashdot was a Top 100 site according to a few months ago, which measures web traffic.

    I first heard about Slashdot in a magazine but promptly forgot about it. Then I saw Slashdot listed on and figured it must have something to offer if so many people visited it, and it did.

    In my opinion bigger sites are, on average, better than smaller ones, even though there are many exceptions. Just as the Beatles and Stones in the 60's were, on average, better than the Hollies and the Small Faces. Popularity does correlate weakly with quality in many entertainment media.
  • Just the other day I was reminded of the old truth, you get roughly 80% of usage out of 20% of stuff.

    It goes for web sites just as well as it goes for clothes, programs, recipes, TV shows, etc...
  • and
  • The Web is shrinking for exactly the same reason there are ever fewer car manufacturers, large media empires, or foodstore chains.

    The market today is gung-ho on a concentration trend; only the biggest few of *anything* attract enough attention and approbation from Wall Street people (resp. any other major stock market) to compete effectively in a world where Wall Street's nod means life or death.

    I suspect there is, fortunately, a counter-trend at work in the Internet, which is one of the few places where diversity generates immediate value and stagnation immediate penalties. Which of the two trends will win out might be one of the most interesting things to watch for in the century to come. ;)
  • Situation normal: trendwatching is not thinking.

    Don't you just love the willful faux naivete of reporters who would rather ignore any complicating facts they may have learned if they get in the way of a good, focused, controversial story? (Yes, you heard the sarcasm.)

    What makes "Web Travelers Follow Beaten Paths to Similar Sites" by Charles Piller so ridiculous and hypocritical is the fact that, to get a job at the L.A. Times, he must have developed some degree of skill at researching and hunting down relevant information that is not already media-predigested. After all, as a newspaper, the L.A. Times is expected to present stories that include at least a little new information, and he is getting paid to write for them. Evidently he expects his readers, who mostly have access to a breadth of information sources through the web that the best funded newsroom could never have afforded ten years ago, to take no advantage of it. Unhappily, I am sure that he is right for far too many people.

    But when has it ever been different? Even in historical golden ages of learning most people made no real effort to get out of the rut their lives were in, and likewise most businesses tried to make the best of their situations instead of creating better ones.

    The internet lets people connect to information when they want. Is it any wonder that many choose to find structured news - international, financial, weather, sports - through a portal site where it can always be found, and where it is expected to be up to date, rather than looking through a newspaper or waiting for the TV or radio news? I'm not sure this says as much about the internet as about the traditional media.

    The real story with the internet is not that the greater part of society continues to make little effort to create and look after their own interests, but that those who don't want to be bored and boring have access to a world of information without needing a major budget.

    So only 80% go to websites the repiort categorized as "other" each month. What else is new. Here's the real question: how many experience some of the breadth of the web every week, or every day? How many of them regularly did something similar before the web?

    Yes, people who gain some experiance use the web as a tool, rather than just surfing around, but it is the most multivalent information tool civilization has ever had. Lest anyone forget, even the most mainstream of portal sites offers access to a greater variety of information than the 11:00 news ever did. And any story that piques interest can be researched right then.

    You don't have to be an activist, or interested in dissent from the conventional, or a Noam Chomsky disciple, to simply want to know more about your skills, your field, your hobbies, your interests, than any portal site will have prepackaged.

    It was, after all, people who got really interested in things the mainstream didn't have available who created Yahoo and Hotmail and Amazon. However much big media money enters the web sphere, however much big media pressures the .com companies toward the lowest common denominator, these sites and so many more allow both consumers and those who consider themselves producers to do any number of useful things inexpensively that previously couldn't be done at all. Two steps forward, one step back, perhaps, but that's still ahead.

    More importantly, for the individual, there's effectively an infinite number of paths ahead at any time, paths to involvement and challenge or at least customized distraction. Meanwhile, just like always, most people most of the time are bored or tired enough to consider buying what big media is selling a fair trade. Face it, for almost all of us it is a fair trade at least a bit of the time. But really, which is the big story here?
  • Drudge Report
    Bill Cooper
    Jeff Rense
    Art Bell

    but what I really like to do is run
    searches. just to see what turns up.

    just the other day I was looking for
    Zappa mp3's, found a program that acts
    like an old analog synth. It's cool, almost
    have all the controls worked out. and it's free!

    and I've become a shoutcast fan too.

    to me the Internet is like a pawn shop, never
    know what you will find.
  • ... time to reload ...
  • That the web contracts is certainly what those "first come" internet companies are banking on. While I think it is true to a point. I do not think these companies can ever let up and let their profit margins widen (like a "real" company could) as their brand name becomes more widely instated in peoples' subconscious.
    A "click" is still only 10 seconds away (less shortly), as oposed to a 15 minute car drive.

    I still would not place a big bet on any of the Yahoo's, Amazon's and Ebays' will still be number ones in ten years to come.
  • Simply put, back in the early 90s when the web started taking off, there was little commercial interest and since it didn't have the kind of use it does today, technological developments were few.

    With the explosion of people onto the web, the technology related to web sites (cgi, DHTML, Java, JavaScript, Flash, etc) has allowed sites with the ability to really provide dynamic, informative and most importantly current content.

    As i recall when i used to parouse with mosiac and netscape 1.1n, all the pages were static unless someone spent the time updating things manually so, of course, surfing meant hitting mainly new things.

  • It's like this with anything. There sure are a lot more visits to Radio Shack stores than Mom & Pop's Electronics. As brands grow online, it should have the same effect as the Wal-Mart's and Old Navy's of the world. The little man will be crushed. This trend also reaches into news and personal sites. For example, some people have the attitude, "Slashdot has it all, why go anywhere else?" It would be hard for someone like me, for instance, to compete with the popularity of this site. Personal sites like The Fray that are popular could almost be considered the "upper class" of people on the web, where as Geocities could be considered the Internet Ghetto. I think we're seeing the internet take on a life of it's own, and because it has, it's playing by the same rules we play by in real life.
  • Yes, but that is exactly how most of these companies measure their success now. They certainly do not have any type of profits to brag about. But they can say that the traffic to their site has increased 75% over the past quarter.

    That is exactly what advertisers (what many of these sites depend on) look for when determining where to put up banners. A lot of time all they really care about is how many people will merely glance at their ad, because only like .001% will even click on it.

    So these statistics do mean a lot.
  • Every site you visit these days wants to be the only site you visit. It's not good enough to be a news site - you've got to try to include all the other news sites on your site. I guess this is the road that ad-supported sites will lead us down.

    I think what's next (at least what I'd like to see) is that the people that write the news start getting more attention than the news sites. I want to read articles by []
    Chris Hecker, not articles by ZDNet or any other publication.

    The role the publishers play is the role that the record labels play - they screen all stuff they get and decide what is worth passing on. MP3 is proving we don't need them for music, but what about news?

    - Steve

"Yeah, but you're taking the universe out of context."