Google, Yahoo and Microsoft may not see eye-to-eye on every issue, but the three leading search engines sang in chorus today as they shared with the world the most popular search term on each of their platforms in 2009.
Taking the top spot on each company’s list was none other than fallen pop icon Michael Jackson.
Jackson’s death in June set off a media firestorm of outsized proportions, as a 24-hour news cycle looped footage of his performances, interviews and tributes and spurious rumors for days on end.
All of this met with a voracious appetite among Web users, who evidently flocked to the search engines to get their fill of Jackson news.
But after the top spot, the consensus broke down. The search term “Twitter” appeared on Microsoft’s list at No. 2, and at No. 4 on Google, the only query aside from Jackson to appear on more than one company’s top 10 list.
The companies have made an annual tradition of releasing these lists at the end of the year, offering a gentle reminder of the spirit of the times and the storylines that captured our attention.
Yahoo’s list was stacked with frivolous or pop culture queries, which the company interpreted as a sign that people were looking for comfort and seeking distractions in the midst of a woeful economic climate.
“We saw consumers escape to the Web hoping to pursue news and their guilty pleasures: vampires, political implosions, how to moonwalk — you name it, people went online to find it,” Vera Chan, a Yahoo search trend analyst, said in a blog post.
In addition to Jackson, Yahoo’s top 10 list included search terms such as “Twilight,” “WWE,” “Megan Fox,” “Britney Spears” and “NASCAR.”
Google’s list was lighter on the celebrities (with the exception of Lady Gaga, who checked in at No. 7), but heavier on technology-related searches. “Facebook” was the second-most popular search term on Google’s list, followed by “Tuenti,” a Spanish social network, and Twitter.
Also, perhaps a bit ironically, the term “Windows 7” ranked No. 8 on Google’s list.
Microsoft’s Bing reported a few more serious items in its top 10 list, including “Swine Flu” (No. 3), “Stock Market” (No. 4) and “Cash for Clunkers” (No. 7).
But Microsoft users demonstrated their own interest in celebrities, both alive and dead, with searches for Jon and Kate Gosselin, Farrah Fawcett, Patrick Swayze and Billy Mays all ranking in the top 10.