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From Google to Generative AI: Ranking top Internet services in 2023

Ask nearly any Internet user, and they are bound to have their own personal list of favorite sites, applications, and Internet services for news, messaging, video, AI chatbots, music, and more. Sum that question up across a lot of users in a lot of different countries, and you end up with a sense of the most popular websites and services in the world. In a nutshell, that’s what this blog post is about: how humans interacted with the online world in 2023 from what Cloudflare observed.

Building on similar reports we’ve done over the past two years, we have compiled a ranking of the top Internet properties of 2023. In addition to our overall ranking, we chose 9 categories to focus on. One of these is a new addition in 2023: Generative AI. Here are the 9 categories we’ll be digging into:

1. Generative AI
2. Social Media
3. E-commerce
4. Video Streaming
5. News
6. Messaging
7. Metaverse & Gaming
8. Financial Services
9. Cryptocurrency Services

Our method for calculating the results is the same as in 2022: we analyze anonymized DNS query data from our 1.1.1.1 public DNS resolver, used by millions of people around the world. To build the lists of Internet services, we use two additional methods. First, we aggregate domains that belong to one online service. For instance, for Twitter/X, we include twitter.com, t.co, and x.com among others. Second, we reference our large source list of domains and identify the sites that provide services to humans. That means that our rankings do not include every domain seen in the data (for example, we exclude domains such as root-servers.net and cloudflare-dns.com). A site’s overall ranking is relative to other sites that meet these criteria; its rank within a category is relative to other sites in the same category. That’s important to note: just because a site has gone down in the rankings, it doesn’t necessarily mean its traffic has declined — it could just be that other sites' traffic increased. Similarly, the inverse is true. What we’re doing here isn’t tracking absolute traffic, but rather, relative popularity.

With that, we can begin our analysis. Following the success of OpenAI’s ChatGPT launch on November 30, 2022, Generative AI has captivated both the world and the news. OpenAI is now close to ranking among our top 100 most popular Internet services overall, rising from #200 in January.

In e-commerce, low price and fast fashion marketplace Temu experienced similar growth, becoming the year's surprise by surpassing Shein and other major players, reaching #7 in its category. And Black Friday was the best day for several other e-commerce services, as well as payment services such as PayPal, Stripe and Klarna.

In social media, X/Twitter lost some ground in our Overall ranking, but maintained its status as a significant online discussion platform. New additions like Threads by Instagram, launched in July, are still gaining their footing in the category. Additionally, we observed notable news-related trends linked to events such as the March 2023 United States banking crisis, the Titan submersible implosion, the Wagner Group rebellion, and the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

We close our report out with a discussion of a range of trends that don’t fit neatly into our other categories, including a look at Taylor Swift’s and Beyoncé websites — both of which appeared in our overall traffic rankings.

Keep reading for a detailed look at the evolution of trends throughout the year. For more, visit our 2023 Cloudflare Radar Year in Review microsite. Along with the lists of most popular Internet services, the Year in Review site and its associated blog post explore a number of additional metrics.

Google is #1. Facebook, Apple and TikTok follow

Since we began reporting these rankings in 2021, we always start with an Overall Top 10 list. These are the services that are the top Internet properties globally in 2023, based on DNS traffic through our 1.1.1.1 resolver. Unsurprisingly, Google (we’re including here services like Google Maps and Google Flights that use google.com, for example) remained the #1 most popular Internet service in our Overall ranking. Since we implemented our new ranking method last year, no other service has challenged Google's position as the #1 leader in our rankings.

  1. Google
  2. Facebook
  3. Apple
  4. TikTok
  5. Microsoft
  6. YouTube
  7. AWS
  8. Instagram
  9. Amazon
  10. iCloud

Beyond Google, Facebook was consistently #2, while Apple (that uses, for example, apple.com for several use cases, including on iPhone related services) was generally #3, except when TikTok took the spot in April. Microsoft mostly held the #5 ranking, although it sometimes traded places with YouTube at #6.

AWS — we’re separating it from Amazon by using domains like amazonaws.com — held a firm position at #7, and Instagram was clearly #8 through the year, with a few exceptions involving Amazon. The #10 position changed more frequently, alternating between iCloud (for which we use domains such as icloud.com, distinct from apple.com), Netflix (mainly on weekends), and Microsoft Office. In the chart below, you can follow the evolution of the top Internet services in our Overall ranking throughout the year.

In 2022, X/Twitter ranked as high as #10 in our Overall ranking, but never reached this spot in 2023. We'll talk more about X/Twitter's performance in the Social Media category below.

Ready to face the Generative AI era?

The Generative AI category became a global phenomenon in 2023, though it started gaining attention in late November 2022 with the launch of ChatGPT from OpenAI. We tested it on our 'This Week in NET’ show on December 2, 2022, and were impressed. It's not surprising that OpenAI was popular early in 2023 and topped this list. Other generative AI services also emerged during the year.

Top 10 — Generative AI services 2023

  1. OpenAI
  2. character.ai
  3. QuillBot
  4. Hugging Face
  5. Poe
  6. Perplexity
  7. Wordtune
  8. Bard
  9. ProWritingAid
  10. Voicemod

Significant changes occurred below Open AI’s #1 spot throughout the year. After mid-year, we noticed a shift, when character.ai took the #2 spot from Quillbot. Quora's Poe AI, which combines several AI chatbots including ChatGPT, entered the top 10 in late March, holding the #3 spot until late April before settling at #4.

This figure shows movement among the Generative AI services that were more popular later in the year:

AI model platform Hugging Face was typically #5, but Google’s Bard also reached #5 in November. Bard, launched in limited regions in March, made our top 10 within the category after its broader release in Europe and Brazil. It was #7 from July to September before peaking later in the year.

Other Generative AI services that became important in our list later in 2023 include Anthropic's Claude (whose new model, Claude 2, launched in July, though it is not yet available in the European Union). It was #5 in August before dropping to #6 after September. Perplexity AI, a ChatGPT competitor, was #8 after September.

Midjourney, which relies on Discord bot commands to create artwork, peaked at #3 in late March but started declining, dropping to #5 in April and May, and then to #10 in September.

Other AI-inclusive services like Prowritingaid, Voicemod, and Wordtune were more popular earlier in the year but became less so later on. Bardeen was in the top 10 in May and June, while Descript appeared at #9 between March and May.

Notable trends that we observed when looking at trends for Generative AI services in our larger Overall ranking include:

  • OpenAI, which was around #200 in our Overall ranking in early January, saw a significant rise between March and April (OpenAI launched GPT-4 and plugins during that time) and is now near the top 100. It peaked early in November (#104 on November 9), right after OpenAI's first developer conference on November 6 in San Francisco. The brief removal of Sam Altman in late November didn't have a noticeable impact.
  • character.ai's growth was similar to OpenAI, rising from the top 500 in early January to around #200 recently. Quillbot remained steady throughout the year, around #258.
  • Poe AI peaked at #276 on June 18 and is now around #290. Claude AI was around #380 in November after a late August peak at #337.

Social media: The Facebook (not X) effect

An analysis from Kepios estimates that there are 4.95 billion social media users around the world in 2023, comprising 61.4% of the world population, so this category plays a big role in our everyday life as a central stage for communication, information, and general attention.

Unsurprisingly, social media platforms such as Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram rank high in our most popular Internet properties and are featured in our Top 10 Overall Internet services list.

Within our Social Media category list, the top five remained the same as last year. Facebook was #1, followed by TikTok (#2), Instagram (#3), X/Twitter (#4), and Snapchat (#5).

Top 10 — Social Media services 2023

  1. Facebook
  2. TikTok
  3. Instagram
  4. X/Twitter
  5. Snapchat
  6. LinkedIn
  7. Discord
  8. Reddit
  9. Pinterest
  10. Kwai

In contrast to 2022, when Twitter (renamed X in July 2023) and Instagram often swapped places at #3, this year X/Twitter never challenged Instagram in our rankings.

LinkedIn held a strong #6, with Discord challenging it during a few days in January and April.

Reddit, usually at #8, competed with Discord for the #7 spot in February and March but fell back to #8 in April, concurrent with the controversy around Reddit API changes. Reddit often challenged Discord on weekdays, while Discord was more popular on weekends. Following these are Pinterest (#9) and Kwai, the Chinese video app popular in Brazil, Indonesia, and other countries (#10). Here’s the top 10 chart across 2023:

A Twitter (or X) drop after a possible football (or soccer) peak

Let's continue on social media, but leave its specific category and examine how social media services fared in our Overall ranking where bigger shifts between services are seen.

The graph below depicts the position of Instagram and Twitter in the Overall ranking. Instagram consistently ranked in the top 10, typically holding positions #8 or #9 with brief dips to #10 around May 2023.

X/Twitter, which reached as high as #8 overall last year following the start of the war in Ukraine, ended 2022 at #12 and continued its downward trend in 2023. It started between #12 and #16, lower than last year, and ended between #13 and #19. Here's how these two evolved in 2023:

We noticed that X/Twitter was particularly popular on weekends, peaking at #11 or #12 between April 15 and June 10. ​​Specifically, it ranked at #11 in the weekends before May 14 and then at #12 from May 14 to June 10. This coincides with key moments in European football competitions. However, after the European Champions League final on June 10, X/Twitter never reached those heights again.

Let’s explore this possible football (or soccer) Twitter trend. X/Twitter's rankings peaked around significant moments in the English Premier League (arguably the most-watched sports league in the world), particularly when Manchester City made crucial advances to their title after April 15. The trend lasted until the European Champions League final on June 10, where City's victory and historic treble coincided with X/Twitter's final peak ranking of the year — the weekend of June 3, when there were already no Premier League games, and X/Twitter dropped to #13.

Alternatives to X/Twitter: Mastodon, Threads, and others

Tumblr, a more established platform than other recent alternatives, fluctuated between #125 and #153 in our Overall ranking, showing a downward trend. Close behind was an aggregation of several hundred Mastodon servers, ranking between #160 and #200.

Threads from Instagram/Meta (seen in the next chart), peaked at #227 on July 6 in our Overall ranking, then dropped but recovered to around #300 after late August, and did not make it into the top 10 social media services ranking for 2023. For context, Kwai (#10 in the Social Media ranking) usually ranks around our Overall top 50.

Bluesky, a newer entrant, first appeared in our Top 500 in late August, with a first spike at #432 on September 19 and reaching the top 400 in November, peaking at #397 on November 19. Truth Social had a peak at #318 on August 23 but then dropped, averaging around #450 in November.

Other social apps including Hive Social, Counter Social, Post.News, T2/Pebble, Parler, etc., didn't appear in our Overall 500 ranking.

Here are some other trends we observed among social media apps, and how they did in our Overall ranking:

  • Snapchat was more popular on weekends, fluctuating between #18 and #21 overall, with improved performance after October, with several days at #18, close to X/Twitter.
  • Discord was also more popular on weekends, varying between #24 and #35, peaking in April at #24. It had a similar trend to Midjourney, the generative AI image service that generates images for its users on Discord. It ended the year around #32.
  • Reddit, which was more popular on weekdays, dropped in our ranking during the summer in the Northern Hemisphere, in contrast with other social media services, and moved between #30 and #38.
  • Quora was also more popular on weekdays, and fluctuated between #116 and #146, dropping in summer and settling around #130 in November.
  • Tinder, the social dating app, fell from a peak of #124 to #133 in November, and is much more popular on Sundays.
  • OnlyFans showed steady growth, peaking at #148 in early July and settling around #175. The adult oriented social content subscription service was more popular on the weekends, particularly on Sundays.
  • BeReal, a French social media app for daily photo sharing, approached but did not enter the Social Media top 10 ranking, and grew to a peak of #141 in our Overall ranking in September but fell in November.

E-commerce: Temu means growth

E-commerce remains as relevant as ever, something that is especially evident in our recent Cyber Week blog post. Amazon consistently tops the category, with Taobao as a solid #2. In 2022, eBay was mostly #2 but has now dropped to #3, although it had several days in early 2023 in the #2 spot, as well as on June 19.

Top 10 — E-commerce services 2023

  1. Amazon
  2. Taobao
  3. eBay
  4. Shopify
  5. Alibaba
  6. AliExpress
  7. Temu
  8. Rakuten
  9. Mercado Libre
  10. Walmart

Throughout the year, Shopify was a solid #4, overtaking eBay at #3 on Black Friday. Alibaba was #5, peaking on Singles’ Day, November 11. AliExpress followed at #6.

Rakuten and Temu battled for the #7 ranking in 2023. Temu, the Chinese-owned and Boston-based low price and fast fashion marketplace (launched in the US in September 2022) was definitely one of the surprises of the year. It expanded to Canada, Australia and New Zealand in February, and ended 2023 as #7 in front of Rakuten. It ranked #6 at times during the year, including Black Friday. Temu wasn’t in our top 10 in 2022.

The South American e-commerce platform Mercado Libre, the American retail giant Walmart, and the fast fashion brand Shein, ‘battled’ during the year for the 9th and 10th place rankings in the E-commerce category.

Looking at how e-commerce sites did in our Overall ranking, we observed the following trends:

  • Amazon finished the year at #9 overall, reaching #8 on its Prime Day shopping event (July 11-12) and Black Friday.
  • Shein, the Chinese fast fashion brand, showed growth, starting at around #130 in January and ending around #120. It’s a similar trend to the one we observed in 2022.
  • Temu was not in the top 200 in January but finished in the top 100, peaking on Black Friday at #84 — a similar trend was seen in OpenAI performance. Temu also overtook Shein in May 2023.
  • Best Buy also peaked on Black Friday in 2023, as did Nike, Adidas, Victoria's Secret, and H&M. Zara's best day was November 23.
  • Target first peaked on November 12 at #134 and again on Black Friday at #135.
  • Ikea didn’t perform as well during Black Friday week in our ranking, and had its 2023 peak on June 14-15 (#172), when it launched its own summer sale and a remote interior design AI related strategy.
  • Alibaba’s highest position in 2023 was on Single’s Day, November 11, at #67.

Video streaming: YouTube and Netflix remain uncontested

Video streaming platforms continue to play a central role in entertaining us. YouTube remains the top service for all video streaming, with Netflix as a close second. However, within our rankings, Netflix is the clear leader among paid streaming services, followed by Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and HBO/HBO Max.

Top 10 — Video streaming services 2023

  1. YouTube
  2. Netflix
  3. Twitch
  4. Roku
  5. Disney Plus
  6. Prime Video
  7. Hulu
  8. HBO/Max
  9. Vimeo
  10. Pluto TV

Twitch, which has a significant amount of video game live-streaming content, secured the #3 spot, as it did in 2022. Roku, a digital media player that also offers streaming services, ranked #4. Following are Disney Plus, Prime Video, Hulu, and HBO/Max (now known as Max), with Vimeo surpassing Pluto TV later in the year. Dailymotion also made a top 10 appearance in late February for a few days.

Throughout the year, Disney+ occasionally challenged Roku, especially on weekends following the premiere of the Star Wars-related miniseries Ahsoka on August 23.

Looking at how video streaming services performed in our Overall ranking, we found:

  • Netflix peaked at #9 on Sundays in April and May, c