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What do searches say about people?

| December 2, 2010 8:00 PM

We can thank Jonathan Swift. It was he who named the repulsive creatures Gulliver encountered in his travels "yahoos." Once the fictional character determines the yahoos are human, he begins to use "yahoos" to refer to people in general, a little tongue-in-cheek by Swift.

Yahoo!'s founders Jerry Yang and David Filo say they see themselves as yahoos, hence the name selection. The 2010 "Yahoo! Year in Review" of most popular searches shows the yahoo in us all. With one exception the most-searched terms by far are not economic, medical, educational, nor political; for Americans, they're pop stars.

The exception was the BP oil spill. That was 2010's No. 1 search term for the U.S. The rest in order are:

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 (she ranked 5 in 2009)

Top mobile searches also included celebrities (substitute Sandra Bullock for Kim), but added more sports, including NBA, NFL, and Olympics. Is this a guys and gadgets thing? "BP oil spill" ranked 10 for mobile phones.

Yahoo! reviewed 16 other countries. A few foreign top-threes included celebrities (Canadians like American Idol), but were dominated by sports and politics/news. In Argentina gay marriage was No. 2; in Mexico drug violence; and in the Philippines, election results. Apparently the Germans are practical searchers (top three: maps, weather, and directories), whereas Italians keep their searches light (Facebook, games, and horoscope).

That begs the question: Might Internet searches become a new basis for social study? Is the top 10 list for Americans in the Northwest different from the southern or eastern U.S.? How about searches by men vs. women, young and old, rich and poor?

Wonder what my searches say about me.

Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. Sholehjo@hotmail.com

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