What The Internet Thinks About

What if you saw the Internet’s most-read stories all at once? You would see a picture of what the Internet thinks about – this (click on each story).

How do we know all this? The data comes from the largest index of links on the Internet (after Google) by Ahrefs.

What Does the Internet Say About Us?

If the Internet is the largest collection of information, it likely reflects what matters to us, humans, the most. The biggest themes, broadly defined, are kids, being rich or poor, death, and self-improvement. We seem to care about other people’s lives when shared from an intimately personal perspective. The life of Dasani, a homeless child from New York City, and a new mother who drove her Mercedes to pick up food stamps, for example, prompted a lot of people to read and share their opinions.

Articles that are not as personal, are either useful, like the article that advises on how to extend your Android phone’s battery life, or entertaining, like the article that shows how we sound when we use #hashtags.

If we were to condense all these articles into a recipe for a great article, it would be personal, useful, and entertaining. And probably in that order.

How Did We Get The Data

For each top English-language media website in the world, we found the most shared articles using Ahrefs Content Explorer (You can explore these yourself by clicking on the names of publications under the bubbles. The index is alive and changes every day).

The top articles of the top media websites are inside the head based on these criteria:

  1. Have a large number of both likes and tweets
  2. Be an idea, not an event or person (can explain it in 1 tweet)
  3. Have a lot of comments (on the publisher’s site). Sticky ideas produce a lot of strong reactions, as judged by lengthy comments and the number of comments.
  4. Not be a video or a picture gallery (without text). If we factored in photos sets, cat memes, etc., they would win any day, but they don’t articulate and an idea.

The top articles of the other media outlets (and the top 2nd of the outlets that made it inside the head) are floating around the head. Top media sites are those with the highest Alexa rank and the largest number of back-links and referring domains, as counted by Ahrefs.

To find the most-read articles we looked at the top media sites and compared their social metrics, the number of backlinks, and the number of comments. The top 20 articles, one from each top media source, entered the composite head of the Internet’s people. These articles influenced people the most.

While we did not limit the data by year, most articles come from the last 5 years – the time that social media sharing became mainstream. Facebook launched its like button in 2009. We used Facebook likes (that aggregates likes, comments and shares) as the main metric because Facebook has more impact on the Internet than any other social network, including Twitter.

Disclaimer: we are not affiliated with any of the media sites mentioned above. If any of them require a subscription to be accessed, please know that we do not profit from your purchases.


Anna Vital – journalism and art Ahrefs team – data
Alex Unak – art and illustration Mark Vital – data crunching, visualization

View static version of this infographic.