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Mar 25, 2012

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thumbnail America's 10 largest websites
Mar 25th 2012, 16:19


Eric Risberg / AP

Mallory Whitt works at her desk at the offices of the Wikipedia Foundation in San Francisco. The nonprofit is one of the largest websites.

By Douglas A. McIntyre, 24/7 Wall St.

The 10 most-visited websites in America may share a few characteristics, but interestingly enough, none are in the same business, with the exception of two portals. Each has a different business model as well. An analysis of these largest sites shows that no single model has helped one type of Internet property or another to dominate the web in terms of traffic. The collection of media that is the Internet shows how essential web diversity has become to Americans’ lives.

This list of the most visited sites includes the world’s largest search engine, web portal, video site, software company, social network, encyclopedia, and e-commerce site. One of the sites on this list, Wikipedia, is a nonprofit that runs on a budget of a few million dollars a year. Another, Google, has revenue that will be well above $50 billion. Revenue is not essential to size online, but size can be essential to revenue.

Internet giants have been in particular focus recently, mostly for three reasons. The first is that large sites collect millions and millions of pieces of information about their visitors. Governments, both inside the U.S. and, especially, in Europe have become concerned with how this information is gathered, to whom it is given, what is done with it, and for what financial consideration. Naturally, sites with the largest number of visitors are at the center of this because their inventories of user data are so vast.

Another reason large Internet properties are of interest lately is the upcoming initial public offering of Facebook. The online social networking site has close to one billion members, many of whom spend hundreds of hours each month on the site. The company’s value is set at about $100 billion ahead of the public offering, which is extraordinary because Facebook’s revenue was less than $4 billion in 2011. There is a great disparity among the value of the most visited websites, causing a debate about why users of an e-commerce site are worth any more or less than users of a search engine or a social network.

Finally, sites with tens of millions of visitors are in focus also because of the mass movement of Internet users from PC to smartphones. Smartphones have browsers that operate nearly identically to those on PCs. Strong processors and high-speed wireless connections allow smartphone users to visit the same sites and use them in the same way as they do on computers. The owners of all sites are in a frenzy to see if they can hold onto their user base in the smartphone environment. What happens to the very largest sites will at least be instructional.

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With each year, the Internet becomes increasingly crowded with websites of various sizes, features and functions. The most-visited sites have been among the largest ones for several years. That tells a great deal about the real interests of Americans, probably as much as any other set of markers.

24/7 Wall St. used data from Quantcast to rank the sites. The rank is based on the number of people in the United States who visit each site in a month. The data are updated daily. Revenue figures are based on SEC filings for the public companies and for those in the process of going public. For others, the information is based on data from third party analysts. Revenue data or estimates are for full year 2011.


  • Monthly audience: 61,981,128
  • Year founded: 1975
  • Revenue size: $69.9 billion

Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) website traffic does not include visits to content sites it controls such as the MSN portal, MSNBC news site or the Bing search engine. The visitors counted are for the online corporate destination of the world’s largest software company. Microsoft’s site primary purposes are to sell, download and support its most widely used software products -- Windows and its business suite of tools. is also the destination for public company information, including financial data and the company’s significant patent and intellectual property legal activity.

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  • Monthly audience: 63,933,088
  • Year founded: 2003
  • Revenue size: $10 million

WordPress has two large online destination sites. One is, a place where millions of bloggers download basic open source software they can use to create and maintain their own websites. The traffic is not included in’s traffic figure. is the destination for a broad spectrum of users -- from small bloggers to large companies -- that use the site to post information and design their blogs. is operated by Automattic, which sells custom design, custom domains and upgrades to the basic WordPress open source software. While the WordPress for-profit business has products used by a large number of different media and large companies, Automattic does not charge high enough fees to make the “upgrade” business a large one.


  • Year founded: 2001
  • Monthly audience: 77,354,504
  • Revenue: $20 million

Wikipedia is operated by the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation. The work of the foundation is to support a collection of open source encyclopedias. This already includes dozens of encyclopedias written in the world’s most common languages. The number of articles created for the sites is huge. The English version alone has 3.9 million articles. The German language edition has 1.4 million articles. The tiny budget of the foundation is being used to drive global traffic to the level of one billion readers and the number of articles to 50 million. All of the capital for these projects is donated to the nonprofit foundation. Wikipedia is most famous for making information on a universe of subjects available for free to anyone with access to the Internet. But with such a large amount of content and small staff to monitor its quality, Wikipedia is also infamous for being inconsistent with mixed quality in different subjects.

7. MSN

  • Monthly audience: 78,095,128
  • Year founded: 1995
  • Revenue: $2.5 billion is one of the three largest Internet content portals, along with Yahoo! and Aol (NYSE: AOL). Its business is supported by display advertising and search revenue. The portal model is based on providing millions of visitors access to a large range of content. This includes a number of areas that used to be exclusively the role of national magazines, newspapers, radio and television. News posted by the portals is among their most visited content, and so is content about sports, entertainment and self-help. The portals have expanded into areas that can get some local advertising revenue, particularly automobiles and real estate. Premium news and entertainment content have recently become a large part of the offerings of these sites as well.

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6. Twitter

  • Monthly audience: 90,790,080
  • Year founded: 2006
  • Revenue: $140 million

Twitter is described alternatively as a “microblog” and as a “social network.” Users, which by many estimates exceed 300 million, can post messages of up to 140 characters at a time. This is microblogging to the extent that the “tweets” are available for large numbers of people to read. It is a social network to the extent that it allows users to exchange details about their lives, plans and interests. The problem Twitter faces is that it has not been able to turn what some industry experts believe is 200 million tweets a day into a viable business. Advertisers have shown a reluctance to put marketing messages into these tweets because they are so short and because Twitter users have often rejected using a service that has become partially commercialized. Some of the Twitter users with the largest followings, mostly celebrities connected to millions of fans, use these followings as a way to promote causes, products or even their own careers. So far, this has proved a more successful way to exploit the service than traditional advertising.

5. Yahoo!

  • Monthly audience: 94,840,280
  • Year founded: 1995
  • Revenue: $5 billion

Yahoo! (NASDAQ: YHOO) has been at the center of a number of controversies over the past several years. It rejected a rich bid by Microsoft in 2008, had three CEOs in four years, and executed a large series of layoffs. Recently, a substantial portion of its board of directors resigned. Yet, the remarkable size of the website’s traffic has not changed, and the parent company continues to be profitable, despite a lack of revenue growth. Some of the sites on this list would welcome Yahoo!’s profits. The Internet portal makes money from a combination of display and search advertising. Yahoo! runs far behind Google in terms of search engine traffic, and it holds only 14 percent of the U.S. market for search activity, according to Comscore. But it still manages to capitalize on that small share.


  • Monthly audience: 99,374,352
  • Year founded: 1994
  • Revenue: $48 billion (NASDAQ: AMZN) is the primary website for the world’s largest e-commerce company. It is an online superstore with an immensely diverse virtual inventory. It sells nearly anything brick-and-mortar retailers such as Walmart (NYSE: WMT), Best Buy (NYSE: BBY), Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS), Home Depot (NYSE: HD) and Kroger (NYSE: KR) sell. And that is to list just a few. Amazon has used the traffic and customer base it has established over the years to enter a number of new, lucrative and even revolutionary businesses. This includes electronic books, which barely existed five years ago. It includes the e-reader business, which Amazon pioneered with the 2007 introduction of the Kindle. And it includes the online video-on-demand business. Amazon has recently been transformed from a company that competes with other retailers to one that also competes with the likes of Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) in the content delivery business and with Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) in the consumer electronics sector.

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3. Facebook

  • Monthly audience: 149,488,208
  • Year founded: 2004
  • Revenue: $3.7 billion

Facebook, the world’s largest social network with nearly one billion members, plans to raise enough money through an IPO this year to value the company at nearly $100 billion. The site is not even 10 years old. The meteoric rise of the business is largely due to how it altered people’s use the Internet. Before Facebook, Internet use was mostly passive. Visitors went to a portal to get information, to a search engine to get research results, and to video sites to watch content. Facebook helped the Internet evolve into a two-way interpersonal medium on which people voluntarily offer a great deal of their personal information to interact with friends, family and business associates. In the process, Facebook has been at the core of one of the most revolutionary changes in human interaction. Despite this, Facebook has not been able to find a way to make a great deal of money from its huge membership, particularly when compared to Google and Amazon.

2. YouTube

  • Monthly audience: 159,975,920
  • Year founded: 2005
  • Revenue: $1.6 billion

YouTube is the largest video site in the world. To give an idea of its dominance of the U.S. market, 18.6 billion videos were viewed at this division of Google in January against the a total of 40 billion nationwide for all websites. The average number of minutes per viewer for Google’s video content, almost all of it on YouTube, was 448 minutes in January, compared to 57 minutes on Yahoo! and 22 minutes on Facebook. YouTube’s sales are only 5 percent of Google’s total revenue, an extremely small amount given its size. To a great extent, this is because most of the content posted at the site continues to be low-quality, user-created videos, and these videos do not create an environment attractive to major marketers. YouTube has found other ways to pursue revenue. Premium content owners have started to use YouTube to build audiences, and they often pay YouTube for traffic. YouTube also has set up a paid video rental business and joint ventures with several studios. Despite all of this, its revenue was only $1.6 billion in 2011, as based on several estimates. YouTube is the only site on this list that could not have existed before the advent of the broadband technology that allows the transfer of large amounts of data online.

1. Google

  • Monthly audience: 185,167,472
  • Year founded: 1998
  • Revenue: $37.5 billion

Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) is the largest search engine in the U.S. Its dominance goes beyond that. It is also the largest search engine by market share throughout most of Europe. The only large markets where it has stiff competition happen to be emerging markets with huge populations such as China, India and Russia. Google has two substantial challenges now that will determine whether its business can continue to expand at the extraordinary rate of the past decade. First, there is a great deal of competition to become the primary search engine on new tablet PCs like the Apple iPad and smartphones like the iPhone. As more Americans turn to these portable devices to use the Internet, it is not certain that Google will be able to hold the dominant position it currently has against Microsoft and Yahoo! The second challenge Google faces is expanding its other offerings beyond search. It is unclear whether it can use its site as a means to help it successfully market these products, including applications that compete with Microsoft’s Windows products or e-commerce products like Google Wallet. Google has yet to demonstrate that it is more than a single legged company -- at least so far as sales are concerned.

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thumbnail States where seniors cannot afford to live
Mar 25th 2012, 15:53

Hawaii may be paradise to many, but it's not cheap to live there for many seniors on fixed incomes.

By Michael B. Sauter, 24/7 Wall St.

The average older American living independently does not have the means to meet basic standards of living, according to a report published by Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) and the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston. The report, “Seniors nationwide are nowhere near economic security,” calculates the average income for retirees for each state in the country, as well as their costs of living. While older Americans in some regions are faring better than in others, their costs exceed their income by at least $1,000 per year in every state.

Based on the report, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 10 states with the largest gap between the costs of living and the average elderly income, also known as the economic security gap. In these states, the average independent senior is short at least $6,000 each year. In the worst case, the difference between expenses and income is more than $10,000 annually.

While there are no areas of the country where the cost of living is affordable for seniors, the states in Northeast and Southeast have the biggest problems. According to WOW CEO and President Donna Adkinson, seniors have lower incomes in the Southeast while Northeast states are the most expensive.

Most of the states with the largest disparity between elderly income and expenses have higher costs for all residents and are either in the Northeast or the Pacific. While expenses in these regions are higher than the rest of the country, basic necessities such as health care, food, housing and transportation affect the elderly even more — usually must rely on Social Security, pensions and noncash benefits to cover their costs.

Rent and mortgage payments are the biggest of these expenses, and the states in the Northeast and West Coast have among the highest home costs. According to Adkinson, “Housing cost is the largest expense for elders, and many retirees with fixed or largely fixed incomes pay for housing in markets driven by workers who are earning incomes adjusted for locally high cost of living.”

Rising health care costs also act as a heavy burden for seniors in these states. Between 2006 and 2009, the price of drugs used by older Americans rose by 26 percent, according to a report published recently by AARP. With health care costs among their biggest expenses, this increase is particularly hard on seniors. According to the WOW report, the average senior in several states needs to spend more than $400 each month on medication. As evidence of the problem, five of the six states with the most expensive health care for the elderly also have the largest economic security gaps.

Some of the states with the biggest economic security gap for the elderly are in the Southeast, where residents have a lower median income. Four out of the 15 worst states, which include Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee, have only moderate costs of living. But because older residents in these states have less money, they cannot afford even these relatively low expenses.

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24/7 Wall St. identified the 10 states with the biggest difference between median income for independent senior citizens and the amount WOW’s Economic Security Database estimates they need to meet a basic standard of living in their state. To identify the biggest cost drivers for these elderly residents, 24/7 Wall St. used the Economic Security Database’s Elder Index to calculate expenses by state for a single, renting, independent person over 65.

These are the top five states where seniors cannot afford to live.

1. Massachusetts

  • Elderly economic security gap: $10,248
  • Median elder income: $16,800 (20th lowest)
  • Annual cost of comfortable living for an elder: $27,048 (5th highest)
  • Life expectancy in years: 80.1 (6th longest)
  • Housing costs per month: $994 (6th highest)
  • Health care costs per month: $440 (3rd highest)

The average, single, independent senior earns just $16,800 a year in Massachusetts, the 20th lowest amount in the country, according to WOW’s Elder Index. Meanwhile, the costs of living in the state for a retiree to live securely are $27,048 a year, the fifth-highest in the country. The resulting gap between income and expenses is over $10,000 annually — by far the largest in the country. In order to meet their basic needs, Massachusetts residents need to spend $440 each month on health care, $243 on food and nearly $1,000 on housing.

2. New York

  • Elderly economic security gap: $9,244
  • Median elder income: $17,000 (21st lowest)
  • Annual cost of comfortable living for an elder: $26,244 (6th highest)
  • Life expectancy in years: 80.4 (4th longest)
  • Housing costs per month: $1,057 (4th highest)
  • Health care costs per month: $370 (10th lowest)

A retired single New York resident makes $17,000 each year from pensions, Social Security and other sources of income, according to WOW’s Economic Security Database. This income, which is below the national average for the elderly, does not come close to the estimated $26,244 required annually if New York seniors were to live comfortably and with economic security. For retirees, health care costs are actually relatively low in the state. Transportation costs are just $210 per month. But the average single elder spends $12,684 per year on rent. The good news for New York retirees is that Fiserv projects home prices will fall in the state by 5.9 percent by the third quarter of 2012. While home prices will increase nationwide after that for several years, they will increase at just 1.8 percent annually in New York, slower than all but one state.

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3. Hawaii

  • Elderly economic security gap: $8,904
  • Median elder income: $20,700 (3rd highest)
  • Annual cost of comfortable living for an elder: $29,604 (the highest)
  • Life expectancy in years: 81.5 (the longest)
  • Housing costs per month: $1,329 (the highest)
  • Health care costs per month: $377 (12th lowest)

According to the latest census figures, 14.5 percent of Hawaii’s population is 65 and older, the eighth-highest proportion in the U.S. Life expectancy is 81.5 years, the longest in the country. According to MERIC’s cost of living index, expenses are higher in Hawaii than anywhere else in the country for every major category except health care, in which Hawaii’s is second. This high cost of living also affects Hawaii’s substantial elderly population. According to WOW’s economic security index, the annual cost of living for a single, renting retiree is just under $30,000 — the highest in the country. The biggest of these expenses is housing, which comes to $15,948 each year — by far the largest in the country.

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4. Connecticut

  • Elderly economic security gap: $8,020
  • Median elder income: $19,580 (7th highest)
  • Annual cost of comfortable living for an elder: $27,600 (3rd highest)
  • Life expectancy in years: 80.2 (5th longest)
  • Housing costs per month: $1,004 (5th highest)
  • Health care costs per month: $430 (6th highest)

Costs for all Connecticut residents, regardless of age, are in the top 10 for every measured category, including transportation, health care and utilities, according to MERIC’s cost of living report for Q4 2011. These costs are a heavy burden on the state’s retired citizens, as well. Connecticut’s seniors make $19,580 a year, the seventh-highest income in the country. However, the minimum income required to meet basic needs is $27,600, the third highest in the U.S., according to WOW’s Economic Security Database. The difference amounts to more than $8,000 each year.

5. New Jersey

  • Elderly economic security gap: $7,960
  • Median elder income: $20,000 (5th highest)
  • Annual cost of comfortable living for an elder: $27,960 (2nd highest)
  • Life expectancy in years: 79.7 (tied, 15th longest)
  • Housing costs per month: $1,091 (2nd highest)
  • Health care costs per month: $442 (2nd highest)

The average retiree’s income in New Jersey is $20,000, the fifth-highest in the U.S. Expenses, however, are even higher, according to WOW’s Economic Security Database. The average senior citizen renting an apartment spends nearly $1,100 per month on housing, and an additional $437 per month on health care. The combined annual costs of housing and health care come to $18,396. Fortunately for senior citizens living in the state, transportation costs are the lowest in the country, at just $202 per month.

See the next top five states where seniors cannot afford to live.


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