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Popular culture on tap: The Top 10 searches of 2010 – Google, Yahoo & Bing

Alex Christie

16 December 2010

As the world waves goodbye to 2010 it is always fascinating to reflect back on the year that was, even if simply to say “thanks for the memories”. Each year, the three giants of Internet search – Google, Yahoo and Bing – compile a list of the most popular search terms they fielded over the last 12 months.

A quick glance at the top search results for 2010 can reveal quite a lot about the ebb and flow of popular culture. From social networking and global news events to celebrities and global news scandals, Google, Yahoo and Bing were there to rank it and send it back out into the world on demand.

Following the success of our blog post last year on the most popular search terms for 2009, we thought we would check in with the three search engines to see how differently the world is thinking 12 months down the line.

Google’s year in review – 2010

Google have yet to release their ‘Best of 2010 list’, but have utilised their Zeitgeist tool to produce a record of the fastest risers in search over the last year. These may or may not be similar to the other two sets of queries we examine here, but still provide an interesting assessment of the popular trends of 2010.

Looking at the list below, it’s not surprising to see why Google and a lot of other big guns are looking at social gaming for new channels. With two separate companies rising into the top ten this year (gamezer and friv), online gaming could very well become the next rung on the social networking ladder during 2011.

  1. Chatroulette – This video chat service is a random surprise entry. Somewhat controversial for its exhibitionist nature, the site was relaunched in August with the aim of making it safer for younger users.
  2. iPad – The new tablet from Apple launched in 2010 to both popular and critical acclaim,   with thousands queuing at retailers worldwide to get their hands on one.
  3. Justin Bieber – Like it or not, it seems that 2010 will go down in history as the year when Justin Bieber reigned. It looks like this Canadian teenage pop music sensation won’t just be a one-hit wonder either. In addition to his chart topping album, he recently released a bestselling autobiography and is set to star in his own film.
  4. Nicki Minaj – This female rap artist from Trinidad is one of the break-out artists of the year. Her debut album became an instant hit and she made history in October by becoming the first artist to have seven songs on the Billboard Hot 100 simultaneously.
  5. Friv – The popularity of online/social gaming increased significantly during 2010. Friv was one of the many sites to take advantage of user demand by offering more than 250 free flash games on their website.
  6. Myxer – One of the largest providers of mobile Internet applications and services, Myxer came to dominate the US mobile Internet market in 2010.  With more than 40 million members downloading over two billion videos, wallpapers and mp3s for their mobiles, Mxyxer once again proved that mobile Internet is the way of the future.
  7. Katy Perry – The release of her second smash hit album cemented Katy Perry’s place on the world’s pop music stage in 2010. The ‘California Gurl’ also made headlines this year when she married Brit funny man Russell Brand in a lavish Indian wedding.
  8. Twitter – The recently revamped social networking and microblogging powerhouse, Twitter, made headlines for all the wrong reasons in September when a hacker exposed a security flaw in the site’s programming and caused a flood of automated retweets to jam the site.
  9. Gamezer – Another online/social gaming website that gained popularity during 2010. With more than 13 million users, Gamezer has secured its place as one the leading global providers of free online gaming.
  10. Facebook – From signing its 500 millionth user in July to the launch of ‘that Facebook Movie’, The Social Network, in October, Facebook once again proved that it would not be relinquishing control of the world’s social networking scene anytime soon.

Yahoo’s year in review – 2010

Yahoo’s top search results for 2010 proved to be a mixed bag. They are notably the only one of the three search engines to record major news events among their top searches (at positions one and two), while the standard array of celebrities and trendy gadgets predictably feature highly as well.

  1. BP Oil Spill – Environmental issues gained a new sense of urgency during 2010 as the world followed the events of worst oil spill in marine history. Online coverage of this event shed light on the oil rig explosion that created the leak in the Gulf of Mexico, BP’s series of blunders and misfires in their attempts to plug the gusher, and the long term environmental devastation that was caused.
  2. World Cup – South Africa became the first African country to host this world event in 2010. Amidst the nail biting matches that resulted in Spain being crowned world champions, a new craze was born. Love it or hate it the vuvuzela became an instant hit, with thousands of sports fans around the world flocking to buy these noisy instruments.
  3. Miley Cyrus – 2010 was the year when Miley Cyrus shed her sweet Hannah Montana persona. Having turned 18, and with a string of music and film successes behind her, it seems that Miley’s career is far from over.
  4. Kim Kardashian – Kim Kardashian and her family have come to epitomise the power of the celebrity brand. A hit reality show about her own life and a wide range of successful commercial endorsements have seen Kim become a household name during 2010.
  5. Lady Gaga – Pop chart diva and cutting edge fashionista, Lady Gaga continued to make made headlines in 2010. Who could forget the revolutionary and outlandish meat dress she wore to the VMAs?
  6. iPhone – The much hyped release of the new Apple iPhone and the subsequent and ongoing battle for dominance between the iPhone 4 and Google’s Droid made headlines the world over during 2010.
  7. Megan Fox – Megan Fox’s rise to fame through the Transformer films has been overshadowed in 2010 by her new found status as Hollywood’s latest sex symbol.
  8. Justin Bieber – Love him or hate him, this Canadian teenage music superstar became a household name in 2010.
  9. American Idol – Even though the ninth season drew its lowest audience rating yet, American Idol continued to make headlines in 2010 due to the judging panel shake up for the upcoming tenth season. The changes saw Simon Cowell and Kara DioGuardi being replaced with Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler and Latina superstar Jennifer Lopez.
  10. Britney Spears – Having reigned as the number one most searched celebrity for most of the last decade, Britney slips to number ten this year. Attempts to relaunch her music career after a number of personal scandals continue to receive with mixed results.

Bing’s year in review – 2010

Bing’s users proved to be far more celebrity conscious than those of other search engines in 2010, with eight out of the ten most searched terms being celebrity names. These results once again reveal the brand power of celebrity status.

  1. Kim Kardashian – As American reality show royalty, Kim Kardashian and her high-flying family have continued to boost their popularity through a number of successful brand endorsements, including Bing.
  2. Sandra Bullock – 2010 provided a number of highs and lows for Sandra Bullock, including winning the Best Actress Oscar for her performance in The Blind Side and her emotional divorce scandal.
  3. Tiger Woods – This year would be one that Tiger Woods may very well wish to forget, as multiple cases of infidelity and a subsequent messy divorce tarnished his reputation as a world-class golfer.
  4. Lady Gaga – Apart from her continued pop chart successes, Lady Gaga’s outrageous fashion sense and her outspoken political opinions have frequently caught the attention of the world’s media.
  5. Barack Obama – The US president continued to be popular in Internet search during 2010, although the sheen may be wearing off his term in office if the results of the US mid-term elections are anything to go by.
  6. Hairstyles – From Justin Bieber’s mop to Jared Leto’s mohawk, the popularity of the generic term ‘hairstyles’ reveals that, along with being eager to find out the latest celebrity gossip, Bing users are also highly fashion conscious.
  7. Kate Gosselin – As the only entry to remain in Bing’s top ten from 2009, Kate Gosselin’s status as a American TV star grew in 2010 when she appeared as a contestant on the hit US reality show Dancing with the Star, and launched a spin off to the popular reality show about her life that shot her into the limelight in 2007.
  8. Walmart – In 2010, the Forbes Global 2000 listed Walmart as the world’s largest public corporation. In September, the retail giant made international headlines when it secured a $4 billion deal to buy out Johannesburg based Massmart Holdings, a move that will allow the company to open its first stores on the African continent.
  9. Justin Bieber – The only search entry to feature on all three top ten lists, Justin Bieber’s dominance in the world of pop music has seen his fan base of ‘Beliebers’ grow substantially during 2010.
  10. Free – While 2010 was the first recession-free year for many countries, the slow recovery of the global economy prompted many searches for free ‘anything’, and resulted in this generic term rounding out Bing’s top ten.
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