On the occasion of Google's 15th anniversary, it's tough to imagine the Internet without all the Google services we use for our Internetting, so let's go back to 1998, the year Google was born, to look at how the Internet operated before Sergey Brin and Larry Page introduced us to searching with PageRank.
We Used AOL, Hotmail, or Netscape for Email
Back in 1998 the number one most popular website had the exact same function as one of Google's most popular services today: email. According to a Media Matrix report from 1998, AOL got the most traffic, which shouldn't surprise too many people who were cogent in 1998 — you were reminded by slews of AOL CDs snail-mailed to your door. However, the webpage may look a bit foreign. Many of us dialed into AOL using the proprietary AOL software on those CDs, but if you managed to get online some other way, after typing http://www.aol.com into Internet Explorer (no Googling, remember?) you would find an email and chat services portal that looked like this. Not the link to AOL Netfind, the company's entrant to search that didn't survive Google.
After AOL, Hotmail and Netscape both come in the top 20 most visited website in 1998. Hotmail's homepage was even sparser than AOL's: