2001's Most Wanted Search Terms

What were the most popular search terms of the past year? It depends on which search engine you ask. "Nostradamus" was the top query at Google, but only 9th at Lycos. "Dragonball," the Japanese cartoon show took top honors at Lycos, while failing to crack the top 20 at Google or even the top ten in the television shows category.

Meanwhile, over at Yahoo, "Play Station 2" was the most requested, with "Dragonball" coming in fourth and Nostradamus barely making the top 20 list in 16th place.

Here's a quick look at the top ten for each.

Google's "top gaining" queries were:

1. nostradamus
2. cnn
3. world trade center
4. harry potter
5. anthrax
6. windows xp
7. osama bin laden
8. audiogalaxy
9. taliban
10. loft story

Lycos' top search terms of the year (with last year's rank in parenthesis) were:

1. Dragonball (2)
2. Britney Spears (1)
3. Napster (8)
4. Tattoos (7)
5. Osama bin Laden (-)
6. IRS (23)
7. Pokemon (3)
8. World Trade Center (-)
9. Nostradamus (-)
10. WWF (4)

Yahoo's top ten were:

1. PlayStation 2
2. Britney Spears
3. WWF
4. Dragon Ball Z
5. Napster
6. World Trade Center
7. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
8. Dale Earnhardt
10. Internal Revenue Service

It's fascinating to compare the similarities and differences between the search services. All three have placed "year in review" pages on their sites, complete with commentary that helps understand why the queries may have been popular.

For example, Google's Year-End Zeitgeist also tracks the course of the past 12 months on a visual timeline, with graphs plotting the most popular search terms as they occurred throughout 2001. Check out the year's top gaining and declining search terms as well as the most popular brands, music, movies and women on the web as seen by Google users.

Lycos and Yahoo offer more detailed commentary, trying to put the queries into the context of both changing trends and events that caused people to seek information. Reading over these lists is a great way to gain both perspective and closure on a year that many of us are happy to put well behind us.

Year-End Google Zeitgeist

Lycos Web's Most Wanted 2001

Yahoo Buzz Index Yearly

Other interesting "year in review" resources:

E-cyclopedia's Glossary of 2001

Many of the defining moments of 2001 spawned their own words and phrases. The BBC has a list of the new "words behind the headlines" that were either introduced, popularized, or changed in meaning over the past year.

2001 Year In Review

A metalist of lists: Links to more than 150 end of year lists, organized into categories such as tech, books, music, film, people and so on.

Search Headlines

NOTE: Article links often change. In case of a bad link, use the publication's search facility, which most have, and search for the headline.

Domain registration in decline...
The Register Jan 2 2002 2:29PM GMT
Internet starts to shrink...
BBC Jan 2 2002 1:37PM GMT
1901 census published online...
ZDNet Jan 2 2002 10:09AM GMT
Search Engine Optimization and the Bottom-Line...
Rank Write Jan 2 2002 2:38AM GMT
Search Engine Marketing Odds and Ends...
Rank Write Dec 31 2001 11:31PM GMT
Whats next for peer to peer?...
ZDNet Dec 31 2001 2:21PM GMT
Top British firms Web sites criticized...
Globe and Mail Dec 31 2001 12:41PM GMT
Yahoo: Making money in 2002...
ZDNet Dec 31 2001 10:08AM GMT
Internic finds demand brisk for dot-name domains...
National Post Online Dec 29 2001 6:38PM GMT
A sis sibling takes exception to Web search...
Chicago Tribune Dec 29 2001 11:47AM GMT
Spam: Time for a Better Tech Solution...
uk.internet.com Dec 28 2001 9:29PM GMT
Internet Cleared for Takeoff...
International Herald Tribune Dec 28 2001 2:39PM GMT
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About the author

Chris Sherman is a frequent contributor to several information industry journals. He's written several books, including The McGraw-Hill CD ROM Handbook and The Invisible Web: Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can't See, co-authored with Gary Price. Chris has written about search and search engines since 1994, when he developed online searching tutorials for several clients. From 1998 to 2001, he was About.com's Web Search Guide.