The (Non Existant) British Web Industry

Anphicle September 9, 2010 5

Can you guess what the most popular British Website is, and where in the top 10, 100 or 1000 websites it is? Excluded from this question are the sites of entities that have a bigger offline presence such as the BBC, websites of banks or national UK papers. The answer is depressingly shocking: The most popular British website is the property listings site Rightmove.co.uk. Oh, and that is the 1,118th most popular site in the world.

This means the Digital Economy Bill doesn’t mean shit about actually having a tech industry, and more just about catching copyright pirates. Sure the UK has thousands of web designers, developers, SEO and internet marketing experts and the business sites that employ these skills. But there are no online sites for online purposes. There are no top search engines, email providers, social networks or anything that have to do with our daily online lives that are from the UK. The country that takes claim for inventing the web (just happened to be a British man in another country), has nothing to put online. It also means a lot of businesses in the UK are actually foreign-owned. I nearly listed Gumtree.co.uk as the most popular UK site until I read it was owned by eBay. Incidentally it is only 70 odd places higher in the charts at 939th most visited site in the world.

List of Most Popular British Websites With World Ranking

  • bbc.co.uk (45)
  • dailymail.co.uk (194)
  • guardian.co.uk (217)
  • telegraph.co.uk (241)
  • hsbc.co.uk (790)
  • independent.co.uk (1044)
  • rightmove.co.uk (1112)
  • barclays.co.uk (1313)
  • argos.co.uk (1336)

Out of those sites above only one is a web-only operation. Kudos to the BBC for actually offering a decent online portal though the fact that it’s all paid for by TV license fees encourages the phrase “Only In Britain”.

Top 10 Popular Websites Visited By Brits

  1. Google.co.uk
  2. Facebook.com
  3. Google.com
  4. Youtube.com
  5. Yahoo.com
  6. BBC.co.uk
  7. eBay.co.uk
  8. Live.com
  9. Wikipedia.org
  10. Amazon.co.uk

If there was one country you would thought would be using British online services it would be Britain. Trouble is there aren’t any.

Data supplied by Alexa who monitor Internet traffic. It’s true that a lot of internet traffic isn’t web traffic, but taking that into perspective does no favours against my argument.

I’m going to keep my eyes peeled and set up a directory of British websites, if you know of any startups or full-blown UK sites I have missed out let me know. I’m looking specifically for sites that are solely based online. There is definitely something here that is wrong, at least to my UK eyes. Look at it this way; Google make £30billion a year, surely that tax bill could save a few public sector jobs.

5 Comments »

  1. Reddit September 10, 2010 at 04:13 - Reply

    What an utter load of tosh from someone who clearly has no involvement with the UK web industry whatsoever.

    Just a few UK startups: last.fm tweetmeme tweetdeck mixcloud

    And that’s ignoring the fact that development for large companies such as IBM, Google, Amazon, Yahoo, etc takes place on British soil. You also can’t discount effort simply because the company has a larger presence offline!

    Sorry, but this article is useless.

    It berates the British web industry for not having a bigger presence, but the data it uses to back up this statement is skewed beyond comprehension.

    Firstly, it excludes all British ‘entities that have a bigger offline presence such as the BBC, websites of banks or national UK papers’, yet lists rightmove as the top British website (excluding those previously mentioned) as 1,118th (or maybe 1,112, depending on which paragraph you read) on a list of websites that includes all websites, irrespective of whether they have a bigger offline presence or not as proof.

    To be consistent, they have to either exclude all worldwide websites with a larger offline presence, or include all British websites with a larger off-line presence.

    If you use the comparison list as a base (ie all websites, irrespective of off-line presence), then the BBC comes in as 45th, which is quite a bit better than 1,118th (or possibly 1,112th).

    Also worth noting is the fact that, of the 44 sites listed above the BBC, 10 of them are regional google sites, and should count as one site – if I type in google.com, I’m automatically redirected to google.co.uk (does this register a hit for both google.com and google.co.uk?). Also on the subject of google, my homepage is google, but it doesn’t mean I actually use it every time I open Firefox, even though it is registered as a ‘hit’. How many other websites on this list receive the ranking they have because of this ‘homepage’ factor?

    Also, I don’t understand the use of this phrase:

    This means the Digital Economy Bill doesn’t mean shit about actually having a tech industry, and more just about catching copyright pirates.

    Well, duh! That’s the whole point of the DEB, and always has been. It is not disguised as anything else. I don’t think this website understands the arguments for or against the DEB, and fails in what it is trying to say, even though it may have had a valid argument to begin with (lack of UK-based websites).

    • Anphicle September 10, 2010 at 12:20 - Reply

      Sorry if it wasn’t a clear enough post, I’ve been trying to cut down a lot of content to make stuff more readable, obviously it worked!

      The Digital Economy Bill was diverse as creating jobs in tech to laying high speed cables to ensure 21st century networking speeds. Copyright issues was just part of that, albeit the part that got the bill attention. The fact that you didn’t know this about the DEB reasserts my point that it is a pointless bit of legislature.

      Thanks for alerting me to last.fm, tweetmeme, tweetdeck and mixcloud. It is clear from your arguments that these sites make Britain the world leader in the web. :roll:

  2. Roger Browne September 10, 2010 at 11:19 - Reply

    You are certainly correct about the UK web industry having failed to take hold.

    Why is it that the UK didn’t capitalise on the internet? I think it’s that the British culture is strongly resistant to change. Those who embraced change were probably the ones who emigrated during the colonial era. Those who remained have set up a system which (generally) rewards those who work with the establishment rather than breaking new ground.

    I founded a UK website, uclue.com, an online paid research service. Its Alexa traffic rank is unfortunately only 191883.

    But this does make me wonder whether you are understating the results by regarding “.co.uk” domains as the only British websites. Uclue, like many other UK businesses, uses a “.com” domain name. Unlike “.co.uk” for the UK, or “.us” for the US, “.com” is the domain name of choice for any web business with an international user base.

    • Anphicle September 10, 2010 at 12:11 - Reply

      Good point, though I went through the top 1000 as closely as possible the ones I found just so happens to be .co.uk. I searched for .co.uk after that to save time.

  3. Roger Browne September 10, 2010 at 11:21 - Reply

    Sorry to post two separate comments, but it just occurred to me that “lastminute.com” at Alexa Rank 1148 is an example of a British-owned website that should be on your list.

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