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12/19/2006
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Google 2006 Top Searches: Hilton, Borat, And Where's Togo?

Users worldwide were interested in celebrities, social networking, and the World Cup.

Google's top searches this year showed that users around the globe were interested in celebrities, social networking, and the World Cup.

Four of the top five search terms on Google.com were online social networks. Bebo, a San Francisco-based company, topped the list, with MySpace in second place, video-sharing site Metacafe No. 4, and music-sharing site Radioblog fifth. The World Cup was the third most popular site.

On Google News, celebrity heiress Paris Hilton attracted the most interest, followed by teen heartthrob Orlando Bloom.

In making its rankings, Google considers the increase in the number of queries a search term receives during the year, as opposed to considering only the number of searches. By monitoring growth, Google believes it can give a more accurate picture of the world's shifting interests. "It's about change," Douglas Merrill, VP of engineering for Google, said. "It captures the changes of our cultural perspective."

That strategy leads to some interesting results. For example, Portuguese words such as ciencia (science) and filosofia (philosophy) were among the top 10 words searchers sought definitions for, and several painkillers and anti-stress drugs were searched with the words "what is." "We appear to be in pain and stressed at an increasing rate," Merrill said.

Actress Nicole Kidman's marriage to singer Keith Urban was the most popular wedding of the year, beating ex-husband Tom Cruise tying the knot with actress Katie Holmes, who were No. 2. Ex-Beatle Paul McCartney calling it quits with second wife Heather Mills McCartney was the top divorce, and the death of TV producer Aaron Spelling, creator of the '90s hit Beverly Hills, 90210, attracted the most searches in the obituary category.

Under What's Hot, Borat, the fictional character of British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, was the most likely term to follow the question: "Who is?" Refinance and hezbollah topped the "how to" and "what is" searches, respectively; and people were most interested in finding Togo, the small African nation that made it to the World Cup for the first time.

Google searchers appeared to have a moral dilemma, with promiscuous topping the list of definitions sought. Three of the five top terms related to U.S. scandals were connected to the alleged rape of an exotic dancer during a raucous party involving members of Duke University's lacrosse team.

The most-sought-after tickets this year were for Disney's The Cheetah Girls, who were a hit on the concert circuit and on the Disney Channel. Most of the top 10 entertainment tickets were for bands or sports. The exception was Broadway musical Jersey Boys.

Sci-fi comedy movie Idiocracy topped the search list for show times. The most popular sports jersey had a World Cup theme, and game-show host Bob Barker led the list of celebrities announcing their retirement.

Google released its most popular search terms Tuesday. The complete list is available on the Google Zeitgeist site.

Editor's note: This story was changed on Dec. 20 to add additional material from Google.

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