How popular is the Web?

From January to December 1993, the amount of network traffic (in bytes) across the National Science Foundation's (NSF's) North American network attributed to Web use multiplied by 187 times. In December 1993 the Web was ranked 11th of all network services in terms of sheer byte traffic - just twelve months earlier, its rank was 127.

Figure 3. World-Wide Web growth. Statistics available by FTP from nic.merit.edu.

In June 1993, Matthew Gray at MIT ran a small program which automatically travels links within the Web network to try to determine just how many sites there are that offer information over the World-Wide Web. His small "World-Wide Web Wanderer" found around 100 sites that month and over two hundred thousand documents. In March 1994 his robot found over 1,200 unique sites. Even though the robot's programming was improved somewhat, and a number of factors may have affected the final count, the growth rate of the Web from the last half of 1993 throughout the first half of 1994 is amazing and continues to increase.

Brian Pinkerton at the University of Washington has been maintaining a similar program called the "WebCrawler". Its last run in mid-May 1994 found over 3,800 unique Web sites.

Given that many sites are private (hidden behind corporate firewalls or not connected to the public Internet), it can be safely stated that, as of May 1994, there are at least 4,500 hypertext Web servers in use throughout the world.

Based on Web site statistics, estimates of the number of knowledgeable Web users in the world has been as large as two million. However, considering the number of hosts that frequent the most populated areas of the Web, it is safe to say that there are around 250,000 to 500,000 current active Web users today.

A Case Study - Honolulu Community College

Honolulu Community College officially announced the opening of their hypermedia site - the first Web site in Hawaii and the first hypermedia campus-wide information system on the Web - at the end of May 1993. A campus dinosaur exhibit, interactive map, movies, and publications were offered there and immediately attracted an international audience.

By September of that year (after 105 days of service), they had received over 23,000 requests for documents and over 112,000 requests for graphics and other media from nearly 5,000 separate hosts on the network. Today, the site receives about 7,000 requests per day on average, a large majority of which comes from outside Hawaii.

Since the site's opening, HCC has received virtual visitors from Xerox, Digital Equipment Corporation, Apple Computer, Cray, IBM, MIT's Media Lab, NEC, Sony, Fujitsu, Intel, Rockwell, Boeing, Honeywell, and AT&T (which has been one of the most frequent visitors), among hundreds of other corporate sites on the Internet.

Collegiate visitors have originated from campuses such as Stanford, Harvard, Carnegie-Mellon, Cornell, MIT, Michigan State, Rutgers, Purdue, Rice, Georgia Tech, Columbia, University of Texas, and Washington University, as well as other campuses in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Denmark, to name but a few.

Governmental visitors have come from various departments in NASA, including their Jet Propulsion Laboratories, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, the National Institute of Health, the Superconducting Supercollider project, and the USDA, as well as government sites in Singapore and Australia. A few dozen Army and Navy sites throughout the world also visited the site.

Because HCC's service began operation when there were relatively few such sites in the world, and in part due to its popularity, their growth in traffic has closely reflected the growth of the Web.

The Popularity of Other Web Sites

The Global Network Navigator is an electronic magazine published by O'Reilly and Associates over the World-Wide Web. It offers news, a calendar of Internet events, and a virtual marketplace in which companies can advertise their services. It has roughly 12,000 registered subscribers and receives about 150,000 to 200,000 requests for documents and media per week from people all over the Internet.

Perhaps the best example of the growth in Web usage can be seen at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). The NCSA produces a number of popular software products for World-Wide Web use and their Web site is used as documentation for their products as well as a repository for announcements of new events on the Web. In July 1993 NCSA's site received roughly 100,000 requests per week. Currently it receives at least one million requests per week and its traffic continues to increase.

Who Travels the Web?

An informal comparison of host statistics from 15 government, research, educational, and corporate Web sites in March 1994 shows that the people roaming the World-Wide Web follow the makeup of the Internet fairly well.

Shown are the top five Web users by domain and the average percentage of total hosts each Web site received. Next to these statistics is the estimated percentage of total hosts on the Internet for these domains.

Table 1: Top Five World-Wide Web Users, by Domain

From January 1994 Stanford Research Institute (SRI International) statistics, available by FTP from nic.merit.edu.

In January 1994, James Pitkow (pitkow@cc.gatech.edu) and Mimi Recker at the Georgia Institute of Technology held the first World-Wide Web user survey. Out of 1,300 valid responses, the results indicated the following statistics about the respondents:

Although it is impossible to know for sure, it can be guessed that the largest segment roaming the World-Wide Web consists of four-year campus populations within the United States.

Why Is The Web So Popular?

The Web offers a very simple-to-use interface to the traditionally hard-to-master resources on the Internet. It is probably this ease of use as well as the popularity of many graphical interfaces to the Web that caused the explosion of Web traffic in 1993.

The potential of using networked hypertext and multimedia has prompted many users to create and explore countless innovative applications on the Internet. It is perhaps no surprise that more educational users are on the Web than would be expected.