How the Internet looked when Facebook launched

Facebook first graced the world wide web 11 years ago – with the Internet a very different place back then.

In February 2004, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg started up a social network on his Harvard campus called “Thefacebook”.

The network has since grown into a $12.5 billion a year empire, attracting 1.4 billion users monthly, while Zuckerberg has ambitions to connect everyone.

But what was the Internet like back in 2004?

Facebook’s start

Facebook 2004
Facebook in 2004

Facebook’s original look was quite different from how we see it when we log on today.

Internet user numbers have more than tripled

Internet users 2004
Internet users 2004 vs 2014

In 2004, there were around 910 million internet users across the world.

We crossed over the 3 billion mark in 2014, with more than a third of those Internet users on Facebook today.

Unsurprisingly, China accounts for a large chunk of that, with about 640 million Internet users, and along with the USA (280 million) and India (240 million) exceeds a billion users.

There were “only” 50 million websites

Websites 2004 vs 2014
Websites 2004 vs 2014

In May 2004, CXO Today reported on the “mind-boggling” 50,550,965 sites that were online at the time.

For some perspective, as of January 2014 there were over 850 million websites – and some live site trackers put that number at more than 1.1 billion.

Microsoft ruled the roost

# Top sites 2004 Top sites 2014
1 MSN Google
2 Microsoft Facebook
3 Yahoo YouTube
4 AOL Yahoo
5 Google Baidu
6 eBay Wikipedia
7 Real Amazon
8 Amazon Twitter
9 Lycos Network Taobao
10 MapQuest QQ

According to a Nielsen NetRatings report, Microsoft’s MSN website was the most popular online destination in 2004. It attracted 95.2 million users.

Google was only ranked fifth, with 61.3 million users.

Today, though, Microsoft is nowhere to be seen in the top 10, with Google climbing to the top spot, with Facebook second.

Google search was dominated by teen pop sensations

Google search 2004
Google search 2004 vs 2014

Britney Spears was 2004’s hot topic, followed by Paris Hilton and Christina Aguilera.

The Tech community demanded wallpapers (for their desktop backgrounds) and had a keen interest in file-sharing site, Kazaa and Mp3s.

In 2014, Google’s top search terms looked very different: Comedian and actor Robin William was the most searched term, followed by the World Cup and ebola.

On the tech side, smartphones ruled, led by the iPhone 6, the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the Nexus 6.

These popular websites didn’t even exist

Site Year started
YouTube 2005 2005
Reddit 2005
Twitter 2006
PornHub 2007
Tumblr 2008

More on the web

China’s staggering internet population

25 worst passwords on the Internet

The threat of the Internet of things

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How the Internet looked when Facebook launched