Since the birth of the Internet, the way people consume information online has been in a state of constant evolution. The web first became publicly available in 1994, and back then, a website design consisted of nothing more than a few words of basic text on the screen, with the occasional photo. Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) was the basis for website design, and remained at its forefront for seven years. Looking back to the first websites, we can see how outdated the design principles are, as we’ve moved toward dynamic, interactive, and visually oriented content.
The Dawn of the Visual Web Trend
The photo and visual based web really started with Flickr®, which was established in 2002 as a major photo storage and sharing service, and also as a social network. When Yahoo was on their social media acquisition binge almost a decade ago, the search company acquired Flickr to become its flagship offering. Now in 2013, Flickr has hosted over 8 billion photo and is one of the most popular destinations on the Internet.
The visual web saw an explosion of growth in 2012, with the development of websites such as Pinterest® and Instagram®. All of these sites are photo-centric, with the added component of social interaction. Users can post and share photos with their followers with just a few clicks.
Visual Social Media Explosion
Pinterest, a virtual “dream board” of sorts, made its public debut in May 2011. As of July 2012, it saw a 1,047% increase in the number of unique visitors through either PC or mobile web/app usage, compared to the previous year. The network reports 27,223,000 PC users, 14,316,000 mobile web users, and 4,946,000 mobile app users. PC users spent 1.3 billion minutes browsing. Mobile web users spent 1.2 million minutes browsing, for a 4,225% increase in usage. Mobile app users spent 720.1 million minutes browsing, for a 6,056% increase in usage. For the time period, it represents the largest year-over-year increase in both audience and time spent on any network, across all platforms.
Instagram, founded in 2010 and acquired by Facebook in 2012, is a photo and video sharing mobile app and website, though video capabilities were not added until 2013. Its success is largely attributed to the fact that smartphone users are also carrying high resolution cameras with them wherever they go, and can easily share their photos with their social media followers, leading to a massive increase in the number of photos online. As of June 2013, the network has more than 130 million active users, with more than 16 billion photos hosted through the service, and 1 billion “likes” given each day. Need a little comparison? Photo sharing service Flickr® initially debuted in 2002, was acquired by Yahoo in 2005, and hit 8 billion photos in May 2013.
Why Does the Visual Web Work?
The web is no longer limited to our desktop computers at home, or our laptops on the go. As of April 2012, 55% of American adult cell phone owners use their devices to go online, and as of May 2013, 56% of American adults own smartphones. Websites with strong imagery are easier to digest than text heavy material. The old adage, “A picture is worth 1,000 words” certainly applies here. Add in video, and you’ve got a much more visually interesting way to deliver your message.
While only time will tell what happens to the web next, experts with their eyes on trends speculate the visual web is here to stay.
Visual search is already changing the way we search the web, and photo sharing website 500px® could be easily poised to become the best amateur and professional photography sharing app and marketplace on the web. One thing is clear: the visual web has made an indelible mark on the history of Internet use.