The 50 most important people on the Web

Despite what Time magazine would have you believe, you are not the most powerful or influential person on the Web. We love online personals, social networks, and videos of people falling on their keisters as much as the next person, but without the folks who create the Craigslists, MySpaces, and YouTubes of the world, much of the Web’s potential would be lost among spam sites and other online detritus.

So who’s making the biggest impact online? We considered hundreds of the Web’s most noteworthy power brokers, bloggers, brainiacs, and entrepreneurs to figure out whose contributions are shaping the way we use the Web. We whittled the list down to the top 50 — well, actually the top 62 — people, but as you’ll see, there are some you just can’t separate. And don’t despair: Get a little more traffic on your Web site, and you may show up on the list next year.

1. Eric Schmidt, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin – Executives, Google

When your stock price can top $500 a share, you’re collectively worth $33 billion in cash, and you run the most trafficked search engine on the Internet, you can afford to do, well, pretty much whatever you want. Sergey Brin and Larry Page’s little project from Stanford has grown into the Web’s most talked-about powerhouse, and one of the few names on this list to have morphed into a verb. Schmidt left Novell to join the board of directors at Google in 2001 and soon became the company’s CEO. Having conquered the online advertising world, Google seems to be gearing up for an acquisition spree, its headline-grabbing purchase of YouTube marking a big step toward complete domination of the Web.

2. Steve Jobs – CEO, Apple

No doubt you’re sick of the media bonanza surrounding the every move of Apple’s CEO, but when one man’s appeal for DRM-free music reverberates around the world, it’s hard to ignore the power he wields. Jobs popularized legal music downloads and legal TV and movie downloads. The iPhone might even finally popularize Internet browsing on a mobile device.

3. Bram Cohen – Cofounder, BitTorrent

P2P systems like KaZaA and eDonkey are so last year. The future is all about BitTorrent, the brainchild of math wizard and programming wunderkind Bram Cohen. BitTorrent, developed in 2001, has gained in popularity as a way to download large files (like movies) by sharing the burden across hardware and bandwidth.

The technology’s adeptness at handling large files got Cohen in trouble with the Motion Picture Association of America, which ordered BitTorrent to remove copyrighted content from its network. But that setback hasn’t slowed it down. Reportedly, more than a third of all Web traffic now comes from BitTorrent clients. BitTorrent and the entertainment heavyweights have since joined forces. The newly released BitTorrent Entertainment Network launched recently with thousands of industry-approved movies, television shows, games, and songs for sale and rental. Photograph: Courtesy of BitTorrent

4. Mike Morhaime – President, Blizzard Entertainment

In the world of online gaming, there is World of Warcraft and there is everything else. With 8 million players worldwide, Blizzard earns about $1.5 billion a year on WoW. And each player is breathlessly beholden to Mike Morhaime for the chance — if it ever comes — to obtain that Blade of Eternal Justice. As with Second Life (see #17), entire real-world businesses are based around the game. Unlike Second Life, though, these businesses — which exploit the WoW economy and gameplay — are not entirely welcome. Photograph: Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

5. Jimmy Wales – Founder, Wikipedia

Many onliners treat Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia as their first and last stop in researching a topic; and its user generated content has become so reliable that Nature magazine declared it “close to [Encyclopaedia] Britannica” in accuracy. The site has been cited as a source of information in more than 100 U.S. court decisions since 2004. But its popularity has also made Wikipedia a target for spammers — so much so that Wikipedia temporarily blocked the entire country of Qatar from making edits. To thwart spammers, Wales decided to slap “nofollow” tags on external links, telling search engines to ignore the links in order to avoid artificially inflating the search engine ranking of the link targets. This strategy ensures that Wikipedia’s prominence in search results will continue to grow. But Wikipedia may just be the beginning for Wales. He recently launched his own search engine, Wikia Search, which searches only sites mentioned in Wikipedia. Photograph: Andrew Lih

6. John Doerr – Venture capitalist, Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield & Byers A former salesman for Intel, John Doerr has been the king of Silicon Valley venture capital for 27 years, investing in tech businesses ranging from Sun Microsystems to to Google. Jeff Bezos (see #24) once described Doerr as “the center of gravity in the Internet.” He has also put his money behind his politics, backing controversial state ballot initiatives in California involving alternative energy and stem-cell research. Photograph: Courtesy of KPCB

7. Craig Newmark – Founder, Craigslist

His Web site has no ads, charges absurdly low fees to a small fraction of its visitors, has a “.org” domain, and employs 23 people. Yet despite its humble appearance, Craigslist racked up 14.1 million page views last December and was the 52nd most viewed site last December according to comScore Media Metrix. Newmark’s Craigslist has become an addiction for many, who impulsively refresh the listings of free stuff, “rants & raves,” and personal ads while shirking their day jobs. Most importantly, it has almost singlehandedly demolished the offline classified advertising business. (In the San Francisco Bay Area alone, one study found, the site drains up to $65 million annually from local newspapers’ help-wanted ads.) Take that, old media! Photograph: Gene X Hwang of Orange Photography

8. Peter Levinsohn President, Fox Interactive Media

Fox Interactive Media, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, is one of the Web’s most powerful entities, controlling 13 sites that range from uber-popular to controversial A complement to News Corp’s array of traditional film and television properties, this Internet-focused division ranked among the top 10 visited properties in the world in December 2006, according to comScore World Metrix. And there will probably be more to come, as Fox Interactive still has $2 billion in acquisition money to play around with, according to TechCrunch (see #30).

9. Marissa Mayer – Vice president f

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