Top 10 Google, Yahoo, Bing Searches of 2009

Google, Yahoo, Bing say people looked for Jackson, Facebook, Twitter.

November 30, 2009, 6:08 PM

Dec. 1, 2009 — -- This has been a complicated year -- with the economy still sputtering, a new president and troops in dangerous places.

But what did people search for on the Web? Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson and Michael Jackson.

The singer burst into the headlines when he died in June and was 2009's top search term on Google, Yahoo and Bing, the three leading search engines.

The year is not over yet, but they and several smaller competitors have now released their lists of the top searches of the year, and they reflect the times. People looked up dead celebrities, comfort food, and -- more than ever -- each other.

Google reports that social-networking sites -- Twitter, Facebook, Tuenti (Facebook's Spanish equivalent) and others -- were all near the top of the list.

Here's Google's list of "fastest-rising" searches globally:

Google puts out this list (and several variations) annually -- partly, it admits, in a spirit of self-promotion, but also to offer us an interesting picture of what was on our collective minds.

"It gives us a really good sense of what is the world thinking about because what they're thinking about is what they search for," said Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president of search products.

Top 10 Web Searches of 2009

Yahoo's list, described as "overall searches" rather than newcomers, was similar... but different. Yahoo said it reflected "America's need to escape and to cope" in tough times.

What's missing from these lists? For starters, Sarah Palin, who led Google's list in 2008. John McCain went back to being a senator. And "Obama," said Google, was widely searched, but the president created such a wave of curiosity in 2008 that this year he ranked high on the list of "fastest falling" searches.

Google said it teased out other trends from its data -- for instance, what people eat when they're watching their wallets as much as their waistlines.

"Every year we see a big spike for recipes around Thanksgiving and Christmas," said Mayer, but this year the searches were for comfort foods -- chili, meatloaf, pancakes, banana bread."

And there is one last point to be made: While the search engines report the most common searches, they are really a very small part of a very wide range of what people seek on the Web. Google said that every day more than a quarter of the searches people make are entirely new to them -- things that people have never looked up before.

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