The way the internet evolution is unfolding weirdly resembles the Big Bang theory of how the universe began. The Web started as a small singularity, which consequently expanded to the billions of web pages we see today. The similarities are striking, even though the internet only needed a fraction of that time to evolve.
The universe is vast enough to inspire our childlike curiosity. We used to wonder about the number of planets out there. Nowadays we wonder something similar about this universe of our own creation.
While the question “How many websites are there?” may sound more prosaic, the answer can still make us aware of the ocean of opportunities within reach. It surely sent ripples of “whoa” and “ah” throughout the Hosting Tribunal.
And the answer to this question is…? Well, turns out there are between 1.6 and 1.9 billion websites on the Web.
This is not even the whole picture, considering there are a lot of inactive websites that dilute the overall statistic. And I do mean A LOT! Just like the planets in our metaphor, most of the internet (in this case, about 85%) is a desolate or underdeveloped wasteland that once attempted to flourish.
Yet, the Web keeps growing by leaps and bounds. By the time I’ve finished this article, around 1500 new websites will have seen the light of day.
- There are about 2 billion websites.
- But less than 400 million are active.
- By the time you finish reading this article, thousands of new sites will spawn.
Before we can fully determine the total number of websites, let’s take a trip down memory lane and see how we got to where we are.
1. The Growth of the Internet
The title “Father of the internet” goes to Tim Berners-Lee, a CERN physicist, who introduced us to the first-ever browser and editor, as well as the HTTP/HTML protocols back in March 1989. It took two more years for the first website to appear online, and it is still active today in the CERN archives. So, if we’re ever in doubt how many websites there were in 1991, the answer is:
One. Just one.
The site itself contains instructional text and hyperlinks about the world wide web and how to use it.
Naturally, the internet continued growing over the next few years, but it wasn’t until late 2012 that it skyrocketed. Over 1.7 billion people have joined the Web since then, practically half the current virtual “population”.
Which brings us to the present day.
Over 51% of all people are already online, and Asia accounts for half the internet traffic worldwide. Websites are developed in more than 200 languages, but only a few dominate the overall statistic — English, Chinese, Russian, German, and Japanese. With so much diversity, you might be wondering:
What is the most visited site in the world?
Go ahead — Google it!
See what I did there? 🙂
The global search engine has become an epitome of a holy book that contains answers to all life’s questions, so it’s no wonder it tops the list. Closely following are YouTube, Facebook, Baidu, and Wikipedia.
Fun fact: More than 80% of all Google searches are initiated by the Google staff, in the process of developing and refining its search algorithms.
2. Types of Websites
We can divide websites into five distinct categories.
1. Static websites
These are simple, non-editable online brochures that offer no user interaction. They are built with a combination of HTML/CSS and serve informational content.
The evolution of internet technology quickly outgrew the static site concept and the number of websites hosted worldwide using this tech started dwindling.
2. Dynamic websites
Dynamic content was the next step in web page programming. They employ web servers for processing server-side requests.
Sounds too complicated?
Simply put, dynamic sites introduced us to updatable content, shiny interface, buttons, all the bells, and whistles. The majority of active web pages nowadays rely on dynamic content — Facebook, Twitter, Quora, LinkedIn — you name it.
You might still be wondering how many websites there are, but the more important question is:
How many of them are active?
Surprisingly few actually. The internet is home to over 1.6 billion sites, but only around 15% are active today. Sure sounds like a vast virtual graveyard…creepy.
3. CMS-built Websites
Nowadays, make web designers make use of a variety of web building tools that optimize the concept of dynamic sites further and bring even more features to the mix.
The main goal is for users with no prior programming knowledge to be able to operate how their web pages look, what they say or how the visitors navigate through them.
CMS stands for content management system, a set of web-based tools that support the creation and modification of digital content.
Fun fact: WordPress is the most used web builder, accounting for about 37% of all websites. It is so popular that many hosts offer specialized WP hosting solutions.
4. eCommerce Sites
As the name suggests, they exist for the sole purpose of trading goods and making money. To serve that purpose, they integrate a payment gateway, which authorizes payments and processes transactions. Merchant vendors like PayPal, Stripe, and Authorize.net are fine examples of a payment gateway.
Online shops relish in popularity and make a key contribution to the growth of the global network. How many websites are created every day with the idea to trade and generate profit? The cumulative online sales are expected to hit $4.9 trillion this year.
The digits for that would be $4,900,000,000,000 in case you’re wondering. It makes good shopping cart systems some of the most sought-after products on the web.
5. Progressive web applications
Progressive applications engage and interact with different web services through APIs (application programming interface). This way you can integrate different third-party apps into your main one, and create a system that matches your (or your client’s) specific requirements.
With such cutting edge technology at our disposal even today, we can only wonder what the future holds.
3. Domain Names
If your website was a house, the domain name would be its physical address.
As simple as that.
Every web page is located on a server and corresponds with an IP address. Without domain names, we would have to type a long string of numbers every time we want to visit a site. Quite aggravating if you ask me, but the powerful Domain Name System solves that issue.
Apart from the actual name, domains can also carry a different extension. There are three general categories of extensions.
– TLDs — top-level domains or generic top-level domains (gTLDs). Examples include .com, .net, .org
– ccTLDs — country code top-level domains. Examples include .de, .cn, .fr, .es. Geographic TLDs are closely related in usage and include .kiwi, .paris, .london, etc.
– Sponsored TLDs — generic top-level domains that serve a specific use, typically associated with a specific community or service. Examples include .gov, .edu, .mil
Have you ever wondered about the number of domains registered worldwide?
I know I have.
According to the latest Verisign industry brief, there are over 367 million registered domains in the last quarter, a 3.8% increase since the last one. Once again, almost half of those are .com and .net names.
What’s more surreal is that domains were free for registration in the first ten years of their existence. This is no longer the case, though.
And while you can get a domain for as few as $0.99 at certain domain registrars, but there are domain names that are now worth millions. Sounds like an overstatement?
The most expensive domain to date is LasVegas.com, which was sold for a staggering $90 million.
Imagine spending much that in Vegas…
Fun fact: The total number of websites exceeds the number of registered domain names because many sites run on subdomains. Blogging platforms like WordPress.com and Tumblr host millions of sites on subdomains.
4. Current Growth
The last five years contributed a lot to how many websites there are today. In 2013 alone, the internet grew by a third, and it has been rapidly expanding ever since. Three years later we’re already over the 1 billion website mark. About 380 new ones pop up every minute, which takes the daily count to 547,200.
Let these numbers sink in.
If we talk about web pages (remember, every website can consist of multiple pages), the numbers are even more overwhelming. A colossal 4.2 billion pages exist on the Web, spread across 8.2 million web servers. Still, just because they exist doesn’t mean they’re active. That begs the question:
How many active websites are there?
According to the quarterly Netcraft survey, active websites have not enjoyed the same rapid growth as the overall numbers. The count has roughly stayed the same, currently sitting at 200-201 million.
This means that not only do inactive websites make up 85% of the internet, but that percentage increases over time.
5. What the Future of Websites Holds
Technological evolution lays the groundwork for future expansion. Web hosting providers will have a tough task to accommodate increasingly complicated and media-heavy projects. High-resolution photos and live videos are already a thing, and the industry is moving toward VR, holo, as well as other technologies that seemed futuristic just a few years ago.
Is there a limit to this expansion?
Hopefully not. If the internet was a country, it would already be the most populated country in the world. With over 3.7 billion online and one million “moving in” every day, we have an endless source of news, information, and viewpoints at our disposal.
Blogging stats reveal great prospects for those looking to get started on a blogging platform as well. Every day, over 500 million blogs and 19 million bloggers spawn a massive amount of new content readily available at your fingertips.
Artificial intelligence, blockchain, cognitive technology, voice-operated devices — these are already technologies we can enjoy today.
Who knows what tomorrow holds for us?
OK, time for a final recap.
Next time someone asks you “how many websites are there?” you should ask them what they mean. The overall number of websites is in the billions, while just about 15% of them are active.
Registered domains exceed 350 million and dot-com extensions are by far the most popular. In the span of just two years, between 2013 and 2015, over 700 new TLDs like .travel, .blog, and .shop were released and notably changed the rules of the domain game.
One thing is for sure.
The internet is not slowing down.
Not by a long shot.