Yahoo’s Year in Review

Yahoo! yesterday unveiled the 2010 Year in Review, its sometimes tongue-in-cheek look at the leading topics and trends of the past year based on the millions of queries posed to its popular search engine.

Whereas Microsoft’s Bing recently restricted itself to an overall top 10 and a celebrity top 10, Yahoo! published more than a dozen different categories, including most-searched health topics, most-searched dog breeds, and even most-searched misspellings!

There were few surprises in the overall top 10, with the BP oil spill and the 2010 Soccer World Cup taking the first two spots. Of the next eight most-searched topics, only Apple’s iPhone managed to interrupt a solid line-up of pop singers, celebrities, and the inevitable American Idol.

The full list was as follows:

1. BP oil spill

2. World Cup

3. Miley Cyrus

4. Kim Kardashian

5. Lady Gaga

6. iPhone

7. Megan Fox

8. Justin Bieber

9. American Idol

10. Britney Spears

For the first time, Yahoo! also released a top 10 Obsessions of 2010. It defined an obsession as “a person, a pop-culture phenomenon, a political party, a gadget, or a pesky plague that spurred constant online monitoring and obsessive tangential searches.” The iPhone, Lindsay Lohan, and the iPad headed up a list that included subjects as diverse as “Glee”, bedbugs, the Tea Party, and Silly Bandz.

Yahoo! also revealed that about 1.5 percent of searches are made in the form of a question – the who, what, when, where, why, and how of search. And that doesn’t include those leading verb questions, such as “Is eating an entire can of beans bad?”

In a world dominated by digital technology and constant innovation, the most popular questions were reassuringly old school. How to Tie a Tie led the way, followed by How to Lose Weight, and How to Kiss. Also on the list were How to Write a Resume, Which City Has the Best Tap Water?, and What Is Love?

Searching in the form of a question may be on the increase. Humans are basically conversational, suggests Yahoo! Labs Elizabeth Churchill. “As search engines get better, people are more inclined to treat them like a conversational partner – a friend – and use natural language to ask the question.”

“Plus, a search engine won’t judge you,” writes Yahoo! Search editor, Eugenia Chien. “It won’t rat you out when you ask ‘Is Jack Daniels whisky gluten-free?’”

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