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I remember in the early days of the Internet one of the most prominent things on a website was the visitor counter. These days with so much analytics and obsession about how many people visit or follow websites, I wonder how the site counter gradually disappeared from the web page. Can anyone offer an explanation or suggestion?

  • While there are some out there, I think thye disappeared in part because of the lack of visits to web sites, qnd in part becquse most of them became shady and did all kind of bad things, from redirections and stealing traffic to plant trojans on visitor's computers. Anyways, just a personal impression so doesn't qualify as an answer – Devin Aug 28 '15 at 23:58
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    And yet, oddly enough, we do have hit counters for individual articles and profiles. Like the ones on Stack Exchange. Just not nearly as flashy. – BoltClock Aug 29 '15 at 6:57
  • Its important to be careful about what you quantify and display to your users, as it can be misused to form an incorrect idea/perspective. SE for example has done away with the post-count idea and instead uses a points system to quantify the overall quality and trustworthiness of the member, and so it can use that value to delegate elevated permissions and responsibilities. Its an actually useful value. Whereas a post count is essentially useless, and encourages the wrong thing: more posts. I know this isn't to do with web-counters, but they're just a useless number that encourages what? – Andrew Hoffman Sep 1 '15 at 14:13
  • they are still used. not on major sites, but on sites that are trying to develop an audience. every professional site builder includes a widget to count visitors, even the ones available at CodeProject. the world is growingly "major site concentric" as services become more all inclusive and less distributed. – Jedi Commymullah Sep 1 '15 at 21:51
  • What are you talking about? I believe your premise is flawed. – zzzzBov Aug 24 '16 at 3:51
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Deprecated Social Proof

Back in time users didn't have any accessible indicator of the popularity of a page, "SEO" didn't exist. Social networks didn't exist. Users had not a clear way to determine the popularity of a web.

Someone could see a 3500 users visits indicator and think "oh pretty good!", because there wasn't a number or scale that users could think of as a reference to get an accurate idea of the popularity of the website they were visiting, even more if they acknowledged that the indicator could be "cheatable" so it wasn't something in which everybody could trust. It was just an available indicator in that time, so people used it. Same happened with music auto-play. But why?

So, the indicator was there, a lot of people were using it, you didn't have to many ideas of what to add to your website to make it better, you had some "decent" numbers of visitors and you liked to watch how the numbers went up, so having the visit indicator seemed to be better than not having it.

The Present

Nowadays the things have changed. Internet numbers have grown enormously both in users and content, so for example a youtube video can have 5.000.000 views, a facebook post 400.000 shares, the number of users of an Android/iOS app could be millions.

Today there are more sophisticated, trustable and complementary indicators that serve as social proofs: likes, shares, comments, rewiews, SEO positioning, numbers of users using the app / downloaded it/ joined recently, etc. Of course you still can "cheat" on some (bots, false profiles, etc), but if all your indicators are not consistent, people will sooner or later find out.

You can get to visit a page who tells how to cure a flu by eating a mix of apples and cat hair just because you click on a link your uncle has sent you, thus increasing the numbers of visitors of the page, but this does not give anyone a single clue about what's the value of that page for you.
You could just being rickRolled without even liking the song!

Additionally they are not useful anymore to websites owners who now have advance analytic tools to track their site's visitors and much more traffic-related information.


In plain words: it has lost the perceived value it could have as a popularity indicator and it has been replaced with more credible, modern, complementary and meaningful ones.

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    Sadly, in terms of credibility, I think it was a lot harder to fudge visitor counters back then than it is to buy 'likes' and traffic to the website these days. – Michael Lai Aug 30 '15 at 0:16
  • iow, they're stupid. Tell it like it is! – Rob Sep 1 '15 at 2:54
  • @MichaelLai I don't know about easier, they could just add whatever number they wanted to the site. But it is still extremely easy to buy likes so your point stands. – DasBeasto Aug 23 '16 at 18:39
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Some possible reasons:

  1. If some of your pages don't get many hits, the low hit count may discourage people from spending more time on your page.
  2. Many social networks (Like Facebook and Twitter) have social plugins that show how many people have shared the site on social media, which might've replaced the visitor counters. Especially since social plugins show how many people actually enjoyed the content rather than just stumbling across it randomly.
  3. It doesn't offer any extra value for the user, but takes up space. This is especially relevant considering the rise of minimalist web designs recently.
  4. It's not trendy anymore. Web counters are so 90's, dawg.
  5. They can sometimes slow down loading of the web page, especially if it's a third party iframe plugin.
  • Thanks to #4, we'll soon have more and more sites going full retro just for the heck of it. – BoltClock Aug 29 '15 at 6:58
  • I've been considering removing the hit counter from my site in consideration of #4. I use google analytics anyway, but is it really that bad to have one? – Brent Aug 18 '16 at 21:17
  • @Brent there's nothing wrong with having one if it's done right, but these are just some reasons they've gradually fade away from being a major trend – Oztaco Aug 23 '16 at 18:32
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    #4 is a big reason, many sites are trending to the minimalist look. If it doesn't need to be there it is ripped out. – DasBeasto Aug 23 '16 at 18:41
  • #4 - Fashion. Animated gifs went the same way - thankfully. – PhillipW Aug 23 '16 at 20:15
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Web Counters, particularly the original <img src="/cgi-bin/webcounter.pl?pageId" /> variety have largely fallen off the map, mostly because (a) they're inaccurate in some cases (easy to double-count or miscount visitors because of proxy caching, and artificial increases from web-engines crawling the page), (b) many sites offer a mobile app, where the content is viewed without viewing the page, which artificially deflates this statistic, and (c) nobody really cares about page views anymore.

To elaborate on that final point, people are generally more interested in shares, which suggests not just that it was viewed, but that it was useful/entertaining/etc enough to share with other people that might be interested in the contents. Marketers and web statistics people really could care less about how many times the content has been served, as they're more focused on how the content is used, particularly via sharing.

However, there are still some servers that offer view counters, such as some media sharing sites, to show how many times an image or video has been viewed (e.g. YouTube), mostly because this helps derive a video's popularity and for ad-tracking purposes, but such counters are more likely to include views of the media even if it were embedded in another page or displayed on a native mobile app. In this case, the term "page view" is largely misleading, because that doesn't include the full range of ways media is consumed in the modern Internet.

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As addition to the points mentioned before:

  • Business pages or shopping websites might not want to disclose their visitor numbers to the competition. You could revisit a page after a week and then somewhat estimate how much visitors or orders a site gets.
  • It was never really clear if a counter shows the pageviews for this particular page, or the number of visitors/sessions for the whole site
  • Bots and scrapers inflate the numbers. In some abandoned forums you can watch bots advertising fake watches and pills to each other in 5 minute intervals.
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My answer may partially answer your question. Now a days website owners get the full website statistics in Google Analytics, so they don't feel like having counters. This might be the one of the reason that they are not showing the counters. It's not current trend to show count

In 90s internet users were less n that time getting the count was trend.

  • In the 1990s we looked at server logs. (Feels like there is a Chuck Norris joke somewhere in there.) – Mayo Aug 23 '16 at 19:01
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Web counters are not trustworthy because they can be preset to any starting value. And because visits of web crawlers are also counted.

So, the count would not reflect the number of visitors.

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    This answers why a website visitor would be wise to ignore a website counter, but the question is why a website owner would not include one. – Tim Grant Sep 25 '17 at 20:24

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