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Top 10 Searches – 2009

Yesterday Yahoo! and Google released their lists of top searches for 2009, joining Microsoft which released a list for its own search engine, Bing, a day earlier.

The always fascinating, sometimes baffling lists appear to have just one thing in common this year: Michael Jackson! Much like Barrack Obama and Sarah Palin dominated the search lists in 2008, the death of the King of Pop triggered a torrent of web activity as millions of people sought details on the circumstances surrounding his demise and participated in a spectacular outburst of public mourning.

One of the problems with the search lists is that they all appear to be compiled differently. Google actually puts out several lists, some based on celebrity searches and some based on regional searches. Its most inclusive list is what it refers to as the "fastest-rising" global searches. Not surprisingly, the list is dominated by social networking, with Facebook, Twitter, Tuenti (Facebook's Spanish equivalent), Sanalika (a Turkish social-networking site) and Torpedos Gratis (a Brazilian text-messaging site) all making the top 10.

The fact that Google's list is a record of the fastest-rising searches rather than the most-popular is underscored by the appearance of Lady Gaga at #7 and the complete absence of Britney! However, Google can hardly be accused of bias; they give Windows 7, the new operating system from rival Microsoft, a very respectable berth at #8.

Bing is only slightly less confusing, releasing a Top 10 of "trending topics". The rather inadequate explanation of how they came up with the top searches – "we analyzed billions of search queries and developed the list based on searches made with Bing" – does little to persuade readers that this is a definitive list. However, the presence of Michael at #1 is reassuring, as is the inclusion of Twitter, Swine Flu, Cash for Clunkers, and Jon and Kate Gosselin!

Only Yahoo! is bold enough to label their list "Top 10 Searches" and leave it at that. In fact, they happily suggest that the eclectic mix of celebrities and popular pastimes included in the list "tell us more about our guilty pleasures, distractions, and obsessions than news headlines do".

So here is Yahoo!'s top 10 list, with some notes for those not too proud to ask "Who?":

  1. Michael Jackson
    Enough said. RIP
  2. The Twilight Saga
    The year that vampires became socially acceptable and girls all over the world had to choose between Team Edward and Team Jacob!
  3. World Wrestling Entertainment
  4. Megan Fox
    The latest in a long line of starlets who are famous for being famous!
  5. Britney Spears
    Knocked from the top spot after a four-year reign. Expect her to come storming back in 2010!
  6. Naruto
    The story of a young boy and his quest to become the mightiest ninja in the land! (Seriously!)
  7. American Idol
    We are about to find out if it was just Paula Abdul that made this show so popular!
  8. Kim Kardashian
    See #4 above.
    Am I the only one to find it curiously reassuring to see Nascar on this list?
  10. RuneScape
    Described as "the most popular free MMORPG in the world". (That's "Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game"!)

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