Essay: An Argument Against Being Popular

Reasons not to have a popular web site.

First published: July 03, 2002

Web site popularity isn't everything. Sometimes it is beneficial to go unnoticed. As more people view a web site, more bandwidth is required. Bandwidth costs money, and to get money, webmasters often resort to advertisements. And advertisements are annoying. Following that logic, being popular is annoying. End of story. Or is it?

This isn't a game

Being successful on the web, as in life, can boost one's self-esteem, but it isn't easy. Certain sites have a monopoly of the popularity market. They often provide a service that is useful, but generic enough to appeal to the masses. For example, a search engine is about as generic as a site can get, because it is a gateway to the rest of the web. Problem solved. To become popular, just start up a search engine. No problem, for those who have thousands of web servers.


A reasonable approach to publishing a web site is to use a web host, which would only require one server or a portion of a server. Some web hosts claim unlimited bandwidth for a fixed price, but the reality is the higher the throughput, the higher the cost.

Webmaster Widget

Consider this example. Webmaster Widget has created a lexicon of widget words. He puts his work on the web. It costs him 20 U.S. dollars a month to have a maximum of 5GB of monthly data transfer. The widget world is a niche market, so at first, Webmaster Widget only gets a thousand visitors a month. What if he puts up information about sprockets, and gets a hundred thousand visitors a month, causing him to go over his bandwidth limit? Webmaster Widget would need to pay more, and might consider web advertisements to counter the costs. Webmaster Widget, what have you done? Now some of your regular visitors have stopped visiting, because they don't like popup ads.

Going in circles

Okay, having advertisements isn't too bad, but here's an interesting fact. Well-known Internet advertising companies require that an affiliate site have large amounts of page views. This might question the motivation of having a popular web site. There's a bit of circular logic in requiring lots of visitors to get advertising revenues to cover the cost of having lots of visitors.

Conclusion (or is that collusion?)

Some sites are popular and some are not. Is popularity a requirement for success? One biased company says yes, but it's a vain point of view. The important thing is what's on the inside. In other words, it should suffice to have content that somebody finds useful. And if that's not enough, then whine about it in an essay.

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