50 Most Influential & Important Individuals on the Internet

Written by Gilberto J. Perera

The history of the Internet is a short but turbulent one. Gilberto J. Perera presents us with the 50 individuals who have had the largest impact on how the Internet looks and works today.

The list below is comprised of some of the most influential and important individuals that have played an important role in shaping the internet as we know it today. From creating the first browser while working at CERN to helping fund one of the most successful startups to date, this list includes it all. Individuals not only impact the internet with technology and new ways to communicate, but also with their voice and so this is the reason why in this list I have also included popular bloggers that play a significant role in particular niches, i.e. Arrington with TechCrunch.com, Malkin from MichelleMalkin.com, and others.

I hope you find this list useful and insightful, I certainly learned a lot while researching these individuals. The list is compiled in alphabetical order so there is no particular ranking based on influence of the individual. If you have any suggestions for individuals that should be listed or disagree with someone on the list, I’d love to hear it.

1.Michael Arrington – Blogger/publisher, TechCrunch.com: Arrington blogs about web startups and other companies that dominate the web and how they impact technology and services.

2.Steve Ballmer – CEO, Microsoft Inc: With over 90% of the PC market dominated by Microsoft it is no wonder that Ballmer, currently at the helm, is one of the most influential characters on the web. The introduction of Windows 7 in October might be what Microsoft’s been waiting for quite a while. The buzz and positive feedback is fueling speculation that we might just have an operating system that is as stable and reliable as 2000/XP. Microsoft is also looking to combat the increased use of Gmail/Google Apps by releasing similar offerings in their upcoming release of Office. Ballmer faces stiff competition from Google, which is set to launch an operating system aimed at Netbooks later next year.

3.Jeff Bezos – Chairman and CEO, Amazon.com: When you hear Amazon, you think online retailer, but Amazon is more than that. Their ventures into cloud computing and farming out server capacity via their S3 service, their foray into the eBook reader business with the Kindle, Kindle 2, and recently the Kindle DX, tells you that Amazon is poised for growth. The success of these devices and increased usage of digital media is placing them as one of the main distributors of digital content.

4.Sergey Brin – President and Co-Founder, Larry Page – Co-Founder, and Eric Schmidt – Chairman and CEO, Google Inc: I combined these three, because together these men turned the internet upside down. Their influence on the web and outside the web has been phenomenal. From the acceptance of Google in the dictionary to the announcement of a Google Operating System, it seems that Google is all over the place.

5.Dries Buytaert – Founder and Lead, Drupal.org: Dries founded and lead the design and Drupal is open source content management system (CMS) that allows web publishers to easily place their content online, with little or no programming/design experience. Drupal is used by websites like The Onion, IBM, and others.

6.Pete Cashmore – founder, Mashable.com: Cashmore started Mashable to review new web sites and services along with breaking news on Web 2.0 and commentary. He was selected as a top 25 Forbes Web Celeb in 2007 and was also featured in BusinessWeek.

7.Jean-Francois Clavier – Founder and Managing Partner, Softtechvc.com: Angel investor in Web 2.0 startups like NetVibes, personal-finance service Mint, and social advertising network SocialMedia. Five of his investments have exited the market via acquisition by Yahoo!, AOL, and others.

8.Bram Cohen – Cofounder, BitTorrent Protocol: One of the most successful file sharing protocols after Napster, the decentralized network allows users to download large file quickly by downloading the file in pieces from various sources. The recently announced BitTorrent Entertainment Network launched with thousands of legal movies, television shows, games, and songs for sale and rental.

9.Drew Curtis – Founder, Fark.com: “What is Fark exactly? Fark is what fills space when mass media runs out of news. Fark is supposed to look like news… but it’s not news. It’s Fark.”Dissecting the news is what the users at Fark.com are best at, in some cases making news themselves.

10.Nick Denton – Founder, Gawker Media: “With a readership in excess of 20 million monthly uniques, Gawker Media marries a traditional publishing model and an all-star editorial masthead with the audience engagement borne out of the candor, frequency and hyper-linking of the blog format.” Need I say more?

11.Matt Drudge – Founder and Editor, DredgeReport.com: Matt Drudge has made a name for himself by breaking news before the networks. It was most famous for breaking the Monica Lewinsky scandal to the public after Newsweek decided not to run it.

12.Mark Frauenfelder – Co-Editor, BoinBoing.net & Editor-in-chief, MAKE Magazine: With approximately 2 million visits a month, BoingBoing.net reaches an audience that is interested in odd and rather interesting topics.

13.Vitaly Friedman – Founder/Editor, Smashing Magazine: Founded in September 2006, Friedman’s Smashing Magazine has provided designers and web developers with the latest information on development and design techniques and also readers understand the ever evolving world of today’s web media.

14.Paul Graham – Venture Capitalist and Co-Founder, yYombinator.com: As a programmer/programming language designer Paul Graham developed the first web application, Viaweb, which was later acquired by Yahoo! in 1998. He founded and is now a partner at YCombinator, a venture capitalist firm that has invested in companies like Reddit.com, Thinkature.com, and Jumpchat.com among others. He is currently working on a new programming language and writing other books.

15.Arianna Huffington – Columnist and Founder, Huffingtonpost.com: A left leaning media outlet for political news and commentary, gained a lot of traction during the 2008 presidential election.

16.Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian – Founders, Reddit.com: Recently purchased by Conde Nast, Steve Huffman’s Reddit.com allows visitors to submit stories and comment/vote on them similar to Digg.com.

17.Chad Hurley and Steve Chen – Founders, YouTube: These two billionaires started one of the biggest web revolutions in years. After Google’s acquisition of YouTube, the service has expanded to distribute TV shows and movies along with the user generated content.

18.Joi Ito – CEO, Creative Commons: As CEO of Creative Commons he helps ensure that author’s work like this is protected from misuse and infringement. His success in securing and expanding the Creative Commons license is extremely important for content providers.

19.Steve Jobs – Chairman and CEO of Apple Inc: After revolutionizing the music industry with the introduction of the iPod and the iTunes music store, Jobs does it again with the iPhone and the App Store. The gold rush for the iPhone Apps has resulted in over 50,000 unique apps with over 1 billion downloads.

20.Leo Laporte – Creator, This Week in Tech (TWiT): podcast for at least the past 15 years, the man behind Leoville has created, hosted, and written radio and television shows, most notably the former TechTV show Screen Savers. His personality-driven style demonstrated to the world that tech media could be fun. His most recent venture is the TWiT.tv podcast network, a listener-funded enterprise that has gathered some of the old TechTV crew and put them to work creating more than a dozen podcasts, including the eponymous “This Week in Tech.”

21.Sir Tim Berners-Lee – Director, World Wide Web Consortium (W3C): As a scientist for CERN, Tim designed the first web browser, editor, and the protocol we are all familiar with, HTTP.

22.Peter Levinsohn – President, Fox Interactive Media: As President of Fox Interactive Media, Levinsohn is responsible for some of the world’s most powerful web properties, Fox.com, MySpace.com, Hulu.com, and IGN Network among others.

23.Bruce Livingston – Founder, iStockPhoto: As founder of iStockPhoto he met the growth associated with the proliferation of digital cameras by offering photographers a way to make money from their photographs.

24.Rob Malda – Founder, Slashdot.org: The original news aggregator created in 1997, served as the model for future news aggregators like Digg, Techmeme and Technorati.

25.Loic Le Meur – Entrepreneur, Blogger: Among his other startups, Le Meur has launched Seesmic, a video version of Twitter, where users can exchange short video messages as they would tweets.

26.Jack Ma – founder, chairman and CEO, Alibaba.com: As CEO of Alibaba, Ma was able to successfully take his company public at $1.5 billion. The site is a marketplace for business to business transactions, mainly exporting/importing.

27.Michelle Malkin – Author/Blogger, MichelleMalkin.com: Like Kos, Michelle Malkin is a political blogger, however she is conservative in her views, and she also has a lot of influence in the blogosphere.

28.Mike Morhaime – President and Co-Founder, Blizzard Entertainment: With 8 million players worldwide, Blizzard’s World of Warcraft is one of the most popular MMORPG’s in the market. Like Second Life (#36 below) mentioned below, there is an entire business that has spawned from these games, exchange of virtual weapons, armor, and other virtual artifacts is common.

29.Matt Mullenweg – Founding Developer, WordPress.org: One of the most amazing and easy to use blogging platforms was developed by Matt Mullenweg. With hundreds of thousands of blogs running this easy to use platform one can’t help but wonder the impact this tool has had on web publishing altogether.

30.Rupert Murdoch – Chairman and CEO, News Corp: Parent to Fox Interactive Media, Murdoch holds the reins for the direction in that his web properties will take.

31.Craig Newmark – Founder of Craigslist.com: With over 40 million visits a month Craig Newark revolutionized the classified ad with his simple but extremely useful website.

32.Pierre Omidyar – Founder and Chairman, eBay.com: THE place to sell anything online. eBay has created entire industries around ecommerce, drop-shipping, and the sale of junk in people’s homes.

33.Tim O’Reilly – Founder and CEO, O’Reilly Media: One of the most successful computer book publishers known for the different animals that make up the covers of his book, O’Reilly Media has grown greatly as a result of embracing the new digital age, check out Safari Books.

34.Gabe Rivera – Founder, Techmeme.com: – Rivera’s Techmeme aggregates industry news from more than 1,000 blogs and mainstream media sources in one location. Unlike Digg that uses a community of submitters and commentators, the stories added to Techmeme are completely automated.

35.Kevin Rose – Founder, Digg.com: With over 10 million visitors a month, Digg – a news aggregator of content submitted by users – is one of the hottest destinations on the net.

36.Philip Rosedale – Chair of the Board of Director & Founder, Linden Lab: If you think WoW – World of Warcraft is the most popular MMORPG in the market, then you have not heard of Second Life. Philip Rosedale’s Second Life is a MMORPG that has become some people’s first life. The game’s interaction among players is unlimited, players launch businesses, get married, divorced, commit crimes…it’s almost like an alter ego for some.

37.Blake Ross – Co-Founder, Mozilla Firefox: He and Hyatt are responsible for developing one of the most successful rivals to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Firefox recently reached the 1 billion downloads milestone, the browser itself has been extremely successful and carries a market share of about 22%.

38.Darren Rowse – Founder, ProBlogger.net & Co-Founder b5media: If you were looking for information about starting a blog, ideas for writing a blog and how to honestly make money with a blog, then chances are you have visited Darren’s ProBlogger.net blog.

39.Biz Stone – Co-Founder, Twitter.com: Since I only have 140 characters…He’s also founded Xanga, Blogger, Odeo, and Obvious. With millions of users worldwide and break neck user base growth it’s has become the most successful micro blogging platform on the web.

40.Angelo Sotira – DeviantArt.com – Created a widely popular and successful community for artists and photographers to submit and share their work with other users. Sotira’s, DeviantArt.com hosts (as of May 2009[update]) over 10 million members with over 81 million submissions, and receives around 105,000 submissions per day.

41.Gottfrid Svartholm, Fredrik Neij and Peter Sunde – Founders, ThePirateBay.org: Not only is this group influential for maintaining one of the most successful and widely used BitTorrent trackers on the net, but also for all the precedent that they are setting in international courts for their alleged copyright infringement activities.

42.Peter Thiel – Co-Founder of Paypal, Currently CEO of Clarium Capital Management: A member of Silicon Valley’s Paypal Mafia – Thiel’s investments include Facebook, Slide, and Yammer. He’s also responsible for the executive producing of “Thank You for Not Smoking”.

43.Mena Trott – Co-Founder/Creator , Six Apart, Movable Type, TypePad: Developed a blogging platform similar to WordPress that is still popular and widely used today.

44.Dave Winer – Blogger and author of RSS 2.0: Thanks to this guy you can visit all of your websites from an RSS reader. He is also credited with contributing to the invention of the podcast and co-authored the SOAP protocol.

45.Jimmy Wales – President, Wikia Inc & Chairman, Wikimedia Foundation: He is the man behind Wikipedia, one of the most referenced web encyclopedias in the world, currently holds 7th place among the most visited websites on the web (Alexa).

46.Evan Williams – Co-Founder/Founder, Twitter.com/Pyra Labs/Odeo: Known for his sale of Blogger to Google, Williams along with Biz Stone helped catapult Twitter to the mainstream. With millions of users worldwide and break neck user base growth is has become the most successful micro blogging platform on the web.

47.Jerry Yang – Co-founder, former CEO, Yahoo!: Until recently the number 1 website on Alexa, Yahoo! is the one stop shop for content, email, hosting, horoscopes, you name it, they probably have it. Although Yang was recently ‘ousted’ from his position as CEO, he still deserves recognition for creating one the most popular web portals on the web.

48.Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis – Founders, Skype and KaZaA: First KaZaA which was riddled with spyware, then Skype which they sold to Yahoo for $2.6 billion, now they’ve launched Joost that uses technology similar to BitTorrent in that there is a peer-to-peer network that is used to distribute content. These guys just keep innovating and pushing the envelope each time.

49.Mark Elliot Zuckerberg, Founder, CEO, and President, Facebook.com: Founder of Facebook, number 4 in Alexa’s ranking of top 500 web properties, rival to MySpace which has slipped to number 11.

50.Markos Moulitsas Zuniga – Blogger and Founder, DailyKos.com: A political blogger from the left that has drawn comments from the likes of Pelosi, Carter, and others. Although not directly influencing technology, but his use of new media has helped him hold sway in the web’s political sphere.

8 thoughts on “50 Most Influential & Important Individuals on the Internet

  1. Gary

    What about moot? 4chan is the worst site on the entire web, but he has more influence than alot of people on the internet…mostly because his followers are batshit crazy.

  2. JustJon

    You should have kept the list to like, 20 people who have had even MORE impact. Some of these were a stretch….

  3. Lindy

    How the hell does Bill Gates miss out here, what a crock. Love him or hate him he was and is still one of the most influential!

  4. Anon

    When I saw the name of the article, moot was the ONLY person that came to mind. Like it or not, he’s more influential than most of the people on this list. The founder of Typepad? Problogger.net? iStockphoto? I have no idea who these people are. Influential my ass.

  5. Wes Barters

    Importing and exporting has turned into a dangerous endeavor with sources like dhgate being flooded withthieves robbing good people’s bank accountsand never be heard from again. When people begin looking into wholesale, they’re usually the top resource discovered. Great read though.

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