December 1, 2008
The most popular searches, themes, and trends of 2008 reflect Internet users' fascination with celebrity and entertainment as well as their eagerness to make sense of the world around them.
Yahoo released the most popular searches of 2008 Monday and shed light on the interests of people around the world. The Year In Review top five searches included Britney Spears, WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), Barack Obama, Miley Cyrus, and RuneScape, an online adventure game. Jessica Alba, Naruto (a Japanese anime series), Lindsay Lohan, Angelina Jolie, and American Idol rounded out the top 10.
Spears' ranking shows the star has some consistency in terms of popular interest. She ranked as the most popular search term for seven out of eight years, according to Yahoo's figures.
Obama sparked the most interest after his election victory, which received more attention in terms of traffic than any other news story on Yahoo in 2008. His popularity rose as the campaign progressed, with readers seeking information about Obama to determine whether they would vote for him.
"Every day, people turn to the Web to learn more about the world around them," Heather Cabot, Yahoo's Web life editor, said in a statement. "Their searches reveal which news events, personalities, and issues made an impact in 2008. This year people were captivated by the historic U.S. presidential election and Olympic triumphs. They also closely followed every facet of the economic downturn and enjoyed a little escapism by devouring celebrity gossip and delving into online video games."
The top political searches included: Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, George Bush, Ron Paul, John Edwards, Mike Huckabee, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Mitt Romney, in that order.
The election ranked third among the most popular news stories, behind hurricanes and Caylee and Casey Anthony, the 2-year-old Florida girl missing since June and her mother.
Other top news stories centered around Pakistan, a pregnant man, China, Iraq, and Shelley Malil, an Indian-American actor who pleaded not guilty of attempted murder charges after his ex-girlfriend was stabbed 20 times in California. Actor Patrick Swayze, who is battling cancer, and Afghanistan rounded out the top 10 news stories.
The top 10 economic searches included: IRS stimulus checks, oil prices, gold prices, gas prices, Dow Jones, Sallie Mae (a company that buys and collects on student loans), stock market, AIG, foreclosures, and debt consolidation.
Yahoo representatives said they weren't sure why the student lender ranked higher than mortgage companies. Yahoo's Tech Ticker Host Aaron Task said in an interview Monday that the trend could show that student loans are a bigger burden than media attention may indicate. Or, it could have beat other institutions as a search term because people in their 20s and 30s who are paying off student loans are more likely to use the Internet for information than older homeowners.
A tech giant ranked among the most searched names in a final farewell list of people who died in 2008. More people searched for Carnegie Mellon professor and Last Lecture author Randy Pausch than comedian George Carlin, who ranked fourth and fifth. Heath Ledger, Bernie Mac, and Paul Newman ranked first through third on the list of people who died and generated the most Internet searches.
Americans dominated the top five Olympian searches with gold medalist swimmer Michael Phelps ranking first, Paraguayan javelin thrower Leryn Franco ranking second, and American tennis player Serena Williams, U.S. basketball star Kobe Bryant, and American gymnast Shawn Johnson rounding out the list.
Yahoo created a "most influential women list" based on search popularity. Angelina Jolie and Sarah Palin ranked ahead of Oprah in the top three. Hillary Clinton, mixed martial arts competitor Gina Carano, Tina Fey, Michelle Obama, Katie Couric, Barbara Walters and Olympian Dara Torres rounded out the top 10.
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