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The 25 Greatest Pictures In the History of the Internet

Woman viewing photo gallery posted on social media

The 25 Greatest Pictures In the History of the Internet

Key Points

  • The Internet has evolved from email exchanges to social media platforms, showcasing the changing landscape of the World Wide Web over the years.
  • The first photo ever uploaded to the Internet was a picture of the all-female pop parody group Les Horribles Cernettes.
  • Social media firsts often feature the site’s team working on the platform in real time, such as Facebook’s first photo upload featuring Mark Zuckerberg.
  • The Hudson River plane crash photo on Twitter marked a turning point for the platform, making it a place for breaking news updates.
  • Instagram’s early beginnings were marked by simple and unremarkable posts, but its potential for greatness was quickly realized.

The Internet has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the late 20th century. From email exchanges to online forums to social media platforms, the World Wide Web has long been a place to share photos with people all around the planet. By examining the greatest pictures in the history of the Internet, you get a great visualization of how much the Web has changed over the years — and how much further it still has to go. Let’s look at some of the best, most historically significant images in the Internet’s lifetime. We’ll base our rankings on social media interactions and significance alike.

25. The First Photo Ever Uploaded

Album art for Les Horribles Cernettes, the first image ever uploaded to the Internet.
A band photo of Les Horribles Cernettes was the first image ever uploaded online.

This unassuming photo of the all-female pop parody group Les Horribles Cernettes remains one of the best photos on the Internet nearly 30 years later. Thanks to CERN employee Silvano de Gennaro, it became the first photo to be shared over the World Wide Web in 1992. It’s one of the greatest pictures — not to mention one of the most important — on the Internet.

24. Tom’s Profile Picture on MySpace

MySpace Tom's iconic profile.
“MySpace Tom” remains one of the earliest social media stars in the history of the net.

Tom Anderson, also known as MySpace Tom, is like the Mark Zuckerberg of the groundbreaking Facebook predecessor. His profile picture has been seen by so many, it’s practically seared into the minds of millions. It might not look like much, but it’s so symbolic of what the Internet would become.

23. The First Facebook Photo

The first photo ever uploaded to Facebook, featuring a blurry shot of Mark Zuckerberg.
Facebook’s first photo upload was of none other than founder Mark Zuckerberg.

It’s not surprising to learn that Facebook‘s first photo upload featured Mark Zuckerberg working on the site during its early days. From YouTube to Instagram and beyond, social media firsts often feature the site’s team working on the platform in real time. It’s one of the greatest pictures not only in the history of Facebook but also in the Internet at large.

22. Hudson River Plane Crash

Photo of Hudson River plane crash on TwitPic.
The Hudson River plane crash changed the way people shared information on Twitter.

At its start, Twitter (now X) was a place for text-only updates. But, as the years went on, the site started allowing users to share photos. The potential of this image-sharing was fully realized with the Hudson River plane crash. User @jkrums’s photo remains a powerful one. Suddenly, Twitter was a place for breaking news updates.

21. Instagram Founder’s Feed

An early Instagram post from 2010.
Early photos posted to Instagram were nothing like what you see on the platform today.

Instagram came about in 2010. In a time when many were feeling social media burnout after MySpace’s fall, Instagram’s prospects looked a little uncertain. However, its potential for greatness was quickly realized when users saw how fun its filters and captions could be. Suffice it to say, that Instagram passed the test.

20. Another Early Instagram Post

An early Instagram post of a marina.
Early Instagram posts made the most of the platform’s filters and effects.

As you can see by this post from Instagram mastermind @mikeyk (not to mention the one above from fellow Instagram founder @kevin), the app’s inaugural posts were not all that compelling. But, because they broke new ground, they are nevertheless legendary. People hardly use the app like this anymore, but it certainly highlights its early beginnings.

19. Kendall Jenner Becomes the Most Liked

Kendall Jenner's popular heart-shaped hairdo on Instagram.
Kendall Jenner sports a heart-shaped hairstyle in a popular Instagram post from 2015.

Before long, Instagram’s user base skyrocketed. By 2015, it was a hub for celebrities and influencers alongside other notable figures and casual users alike. For a time, Kendall Jenner’s post of her hair arranged in heart shapes was the most popular pic on the platform. While it has since been toppled, it remains one of the greatest pictures on early Instagram.

18. Twitter’s Most Popular Screenshot

Screenshot of the great Wendy's nugget giveaway on Twitter.
Twitter is a hub for screenshots of funny or interesting interactions with users and brands.

While Instagram was growing its user base, so was Twitter. By the second half of the 2010s, the site had over a third of a billion active users. Accounts began to leverage this user base to win things from brands, as seen in this memorable Wendy’s nugget giveaway above. Users continue to post screenshots soliciting retweets still today.

17. Breaking the Internet

Ellen and her fellow celebs at the Oscars.
Ellen’s Oscars selfie was one of the first Tweets to “break the Internet,” as they say.

Back when Ellen hosted the Oscars in 2014, she took a moment to take a selfie with some nearby celebrities in the audience. When she subsequently posted the photo to Twitter, it blew up in a way few posts had before. It legitimized Twitter in a major way. People have been trying to break the Internet with attention-grabbing pictures ever since.

16. Celebrities Get Weird

A strange post from Martha Stewart's Twitter featuring a cow and the letter L.
Martha Stewart is one of the most baffling Twitter users on the site.

Have you ever tried to help a grandparent use social media? This is kind of what it’s like to follow an older celebrity on Twitter or Instagram. Sometimes, they post some truly odd things. Take one of the greatest pictures Martha Stewart ever posted, for example. Who knew a blurry pic of a cow could be one of the best things on the Internet?

15. Wholesome Corners of the Internet

Henry Winkler with a fish he caught and posted on Twitter.
Henry Winkler’s Twitter is filled with wholesome fishing pictures.

While some use social media as a way to get famous or advocate for a movement, others — like actor Henry Winkler — use it as a place to document the most wholesome of activities. His fishing trips make for some of the greatest pictures on the Internet today. Celebrity profiles are not all vacation pics and group selfies, after all.

14. Making Big Announcements

Beyonce announced the birth of her twins on social media.
Beyonce took to Instagram to make her pregnancy official in 2017.

Forget about newspapers or magazines. Celebrities now use social media as their preferred outlet for big announcements. Beyonce’s announcement of her second pregnancy — with twins! — makes for one of the most seminal of the bunch. This picture will undoubtedly go down in Instagram history.

13. The Natural World Goes Virtual

National Geographic's post about the last rhino of its kind.
National Geographic’s Instagram is a must-follow for any nature lover.

Despite how it might seem, the Internet isn’t all about celebrities and influencers. As a matter of fact, the natural world around us has long been right at home on the web. National Geographic posts some of the greatest pictures on the Internet, such as the one above. Nat Geo’s pictures are so great that its Instagram remains one of the most-followed today.

12. A Direct Line to the White House

A Twitter post from President Barack Obama.
The Internet gives citizens a direct line to the highest offices in the land.

Back in the day — we’re talking before the turn of the 20th century — the public could walk right into the White House and ask to speak to the President. While this obviously isn’t allowed anymore, the Internet now allows us to communicate directly with our politicians. Likewise, politicians can use the Internet to share inspiring pictures with the public.

11. Posthumous Pictures

Chadwick Boseman's family announces the actor's death on social media.
The Internet is a place to memorialize those who have recently passed with loving photos.

Another important development in the history of the Internet? The fostering of fandoms. Marvel is one such fandom, and its fanbase has amassed millions of members across social media. When something major happens to rock the fandom — such as the shocking death announcement of actor Chadwick Boseman, seen in the photo above — the Internet mourns.

10. Influencers Create an Industry

Kylie Jenner and other celebrities at the Met Gala.
Kylie Jenner captured over a dozen different celebrities in one pic at the 2017 Met Gala.

We touched on the existence of influencers above, but they’re nonetheless worth delving deeper into. (After all, they’re responsible for some of the greatest pictures online.) Kylie Jenner leveraged her famous parentage with her massive online following to become a billionaire — all from posting pictures on the Internet. She’s one of countless influencers.

9. The Greatest Pictures Break the Biggest Records

Kylie Jenner's photo of her firstborn's little fingers.
The more people use the Internet, the more active users there are to like your pictures.

Kylie Jenner and her famous family are no strangers to record-breaking Internet moments. For months, every time Jenner posted a photo as a pregnancy update, it broke new ground on Instagram. A single photo of her daughter Stormi’s hand holding Kylie’s thumb racked up nearly 20 million likes. This makes it one of the greatest pictures an influencer has posted.

8. Fandoms Continue to Flourish

Actors Zendaya and Tom Holland celebrate Holland's birthday.
Zendaya’s birthday post for boyfriend Tom Holland is one of the most-liked pics ever.

Social media remains a place for fandoms to gather in huge numbers. Actors Zendaya and Tom Holland are proof of this. Both are popular online because of their major roles in Marvel movies, so their stardom (and subsequent relationship) makes every photo they post a record-breaking event. The photo above is still one of the most-liked in Instagram history.

7. The BTS Phenomenon

A photo from K-Pop group BTS's Twitter account.
BTS fans continue to break social media records with each new post from the group.

While the selfie above might not look like one of the greatest pictures in the history of the Internet, the fact of the matter is that BTS fans have taken social media by storm. Many of today’s most record-breaking images are a result of this K-Pop group’s loyal following. There’s no better way to exemplify this than the more than one million retweets seen here.

6. Soccer Stars Smash Records

Two soccer players pose for a chess match.
Soccer stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi have social media records galore.

It seems even BTS fans and Marvel loyalists have nothing on the soccer stars of the world. Icons Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi are constantly neck-and-neck for the most-liked photos on Instagram due to their superstar status on and off the pitch. Their photos easily rank among the greatest pictures online. Over 42 million likes? That’s hard to top.

5. Nostalgia on the Net

Jennifer Aniston and her Friends co-stars pose for a pic.
Jennifer Aniston and

Friends

(get it?) take a selfie to celebrate her joining Instagram.

After more than 30 years of growth, the Internet has seen several generations come and go since its launch. These days, it seems nostalgia for the past is the primary motivation behind some of the greatest posts in recent years. Jennifer Aniston knew this when she joined Instagram with a group photo of the cast of Friends.

4. Russell Crowe Remembers

Russell Crowe and family outside the Colosseum.
Russell Crowe and other celebrities know that getting nostalgic will get them interactions.

Just like Jennifer Aniston, Russell Crowe, and other celebrities understand that remembering past roles and referencing older works from their careers will always make for a great post. Another one of the greatest pictures to come out of this nostalgic trend is Crowe’s family gathering outside the Colosseum from Gladiator.

3. Peak Nostalgia Meets Peak Fandom

Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield, and Tobey Maguire recreate a classic meme.
An oft-used

Spider-Man

meme gets recreated in real life with three actors who played him.

With fandoms and nostalgia wrestling for domination over the Internet, it only makes sense that the perfect blend of these two phenomenons would stand as one of the greatest pictures on the Web. Case in point? Tom Holland and fellow Spider-Men Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield recreating a classic Spider-Man meme.

2. An Egg Cracks the Code

A record-breaking photo of an egg posted to Instagram.
This photo of an egg inexplicably racked up more than 60 million likes on Instagram.

Of course, not everyone on the Internet is willing to go along with influencer and fandom culture. Back in 2019, tens of millions rallied together to give a single photo of an egg more likes than any other social media post at that point in history. It sounds strange and even a little goofy, but it’s still one of the greatest pictures on the whole Internet.

1. What Makes These the Greatest Pictures?

A photo of Leo Messi celebrating his World Cup win.
Today’s most-liked Instagram photo is that of Leo Messi after his World Cup win.

You might be asking: What makes these the greatest pictures in the history of the Internet? Who’s the judge? In truth, we feel it’s only fair to consider the people of the World Wide Web the judge. For this reason, Leo Messi celebrating his 2022 World Cup win — with over 75 million likes — takes the very top spot. Across fandoms, niche corners, nostalgia enjoyers, and beyond, Messi’s picture brought millions together over the Internet. It’s a perfect encapsulation of where the web has been and where it’s poised to go in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions

What was the first picture on the Internet?

As far as we know, the first picture ever uploaded to the Internet was an edited photo of a band, Les Horribles Cernettes. This was all the way back in 1992!

When did images become popularized on the Internet?

Images started becoming popular on the Internet in the mid-1990s. This was due in large part to the standardization of web browsers like Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer.

How did people share images before social media?

Before the convenience and ease of social media, images were almost exclusively shared through emails, online message boards or forums, and early image hosting sites like Imgur.

When did memes become a thing on the Internet?

While one could argue that the very first photo ever uploaded was actually a meme, image-based memes as we know them today didn’t truly gain traction until the late 1990s or early 2000s with platforms like 4chan and other popular forums.

What did search engines start displaying images?

The 2001 launch of Google Images singlehandedly revolutionized image searching. Google Images allowed the search engine to index photos and make them far more easily accessible.

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