Did TikTok really dethrone Google as the most popular website?
Recently, a barrage of news outlets has been floating articles claiming that TikTok surpassed Google as the most visited website on the internet. These claims originally stemmed from a blog that was published by the American web infrastructure company known as Cloudflare.
At the surface, Cloudflare’s analysis is accurate. However, many mainstream news outlets seem to be misinterpreting it. As acknowledged by Cloudflare in their blog post, Cloudflare’s ranking does not reflect “the number of unique users or visitors” a site may get. Instead, Cloudflare’s ranking is reflected in internet traffic. If you were to go by actual visitors, Cloudflare makes it clear that Facebook is still king.
You may be asking, what is the difference between internet traffic and visitors? Well, when you consider the fact that not every website consumes the same amount of data per typical use, it becomes clear. For instance, reading text on a page has a much smaller flow of data than streaming high-definition videos. When you consider different websites have different functions, then it’s easy to understand how traffic can differ. Therefore, an increase in traffic doesn’t always necessarily mean there is an increase in popularity, though the two can be correlated. Cloudflare’s blog post therefore can best be viewed as a scoreboard for who is exchanging data the most, rather than a scoreboard for popularity — like many outlets are making it out to seem.
Another thing to note is that Cloudflare’s data is not reflective of the entire internet, just all devices that have their DNS set to point to Cloudflare’s servers. There are many other public DNS servers that devices all around the world use, such as Google’s own DNS server or Quad9’s DNS server. Therefore, Cloudflare’s blog post is only reflective of its users.