The story of Worldometer, the quick project that became one of the most popular sites on the internet

Henry Dyer:

In 2004, before he reached the age of 20, Andrey Alimetov created what has become one of the most viewed websites of the coronavirus pandemic, Worldometer. The site has shot into the top 100 Alexa rankings. Coronavirus data collated by Worldometer has gone on to be cited by the Government, politicians, media outlets, and commentators – Peter Hitchens has taken to tweeting out a “Daily Worldometer check” comparing the UK and Sweden’s statistics. Wikipedia editors have debated whether or not it should be used as a source. Conspiracy theorists and a right-wing American think tank have speculated that a Chinese company is behind Worldometer. So, can the site be trusted, and who’s behind it? 

Even from its foundation, Worldometer has been about people dying. Its original page, archived online, contained estimates for figures on Earth’s population, deaths this year, death today, deaths by communicable diseases this year, and a raft of other categories such as numbers of newspapers circulated in that year, cars produced, and coal consumption. The site used Javascript and your computer’s clock to calculate the live count, meaning the archived version still works for 2020, albeit using data that even then was only “somewhat correct for 2003-2004 years”. As Alimetov explains, “I just started playing with JavaScript at the time and after reading one of those ‘there are currently X amount of people dying every second’ so I figured it might be a cool idea to put that into a more easily-readable format. Whole thing took only about two to three days to make.”

The site then blew up after being featured on Digg (“Yes, I’m that old”, Alimetov says). So a few months later, he sold it on eBay through an auction for $2000. “At the time, it was a lot of money, and I wasn’t even 20 back then so it was a no-brainer. The immediate cash-out was worth a lot more in my opinion at the time than long-term returns. Also at the time there was no easy way to ‘cash out’ a high-traffic website. The money at the time really helped with my living situation.”