Paradigm Shift: Impending Shakeup in Top Five Websites

Stephen Kraus
August 8, 2018

Paradigm Shift in the Five Largest U.S. Websites:  YouTube and Amazon Rising as the Top Five Reshuffles for the First Time in Years

By Stephen Kraus


For several years, the top five largest sites in the United States have remained stable – in order, they are Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo, and Amazon.

Now we are on the edge of a paradigm shift – our projections show that soon YouTube’s traffic will pull ahead of Facebook to become #2, and Amazon’s traffic will soon pull ahead of Yahoo to become #4 (data highlights below).  If current trends continue, both flips will likely occur in the next 2-3 months.


Gradual in coming, these flips symbolize fundamental paradigm shifts in the technology and consumer landscapes. 

Google: Google still retains a large lead, reflecting its continued dominance and the central role of search in consumer lives.Their website traffic is down over the past two years, largely reflecting transition of some Google visits from the website per se to apps and voice search.

Facebook: Traffic to has fallen from ~8.5 billion visits per month to ~4.7 billion over two years.  But this decline reflects a broader paradigm shift, and must be seen in the broader context of the growing “Facebook” ecosystem.  Yes, visits to the “flagship” website in the U.S. are down, but their entire network continues to grow.  Their app usage is large and increasing, and they increasingly find growth from other parts of their portfolio, such as Instagram and Messenger.  Users of the Instagram Android app, for example, now average 56 minutes a day on the app, up from 27 minutes a year ago.  This transition reflects how Facebook is focused, not just on growth for their main site, but rather on expanding their entire ecosystem.

YouTube: Traffic to is up, in addition to their viewership increases on other platforms such as their app and Chromecast. This reflects growing dominance in its category, its emergence as a primary entertainment/information source for the younger generation, and a growing openness among consumers in general to video (as opposed to written) content.

Yahoo: The top five list contains four extremely successful brands… and Yahoo. Yahoo’s prospects have been declining for a decade, before being split up and partially sold in 2017.  Although it continues to generate considerable traffic, visits to over the past two years are down by about a third, from 2.9 billion to 1.9 billion. Yahoo’s decline reflects in part the winner-take-all nature of many digital markets – weaker technology and frequent pivots left Yahoo with good-but-not-dominant positions in the fundamental areas of the Internet economy such as search, advertising, content, and social.  Successful digital brands are either dominant giants, or thrive as niche plays — Yahoo too often got stuck in the middle.

 Amazon:While the other sites in the top 5 get 90%+ of their revenue from advertising, Amazon stands out in getting about three-fourths of its revenue from transactions. Given that transaction-oriented sites generally need less traffic than ad-supported ones to be financially successful, Amazon’s traffic of nearly two billion monthly pageviews and its industry-leading conversion rate combine to highlight the site’s tremendous success.  Amazon’s monthly traffic first surpassed Yahoo in the holiday season of 2017, and again in July 2018 (spurred by the success of Prime Day).  If current trends continue, Amazon will soon begin generating more traffic than Yahoo on a regular basis.


Market Intelligence: Top 5 US Websites


Market Intelligence: Impending Flips Among Top Sites


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About the Author  |  Stephen Kraus

Stephen Kraus is Editor-in-Chief of, and is widely recognized as an expert on consumer insights and digital trends. He is author of three books, has delivered a TEDx talk, and appeared on television many times. Steve also serves as Chief of Insights for SimilarWeb, a market intelligence firm that aims to track usage of every website and app in the world. He received his Ph.D. in social psychology from Harvard University, where he twice won Harvard's award for teaching excellence.