Shape of Surfing in 2005

by Tim Gnatek - ExtremeTech

With all the time we spend online, the Internet seems to be becoming America's favorite pastime. Recent reports record more hours spent surfing the Web than watching television, among other leisurely pursuits. So taking a look at where America travels on the information highway can provide some reasonable way to scope out our most recent pop-culture habits.

Which Web sites are the most popular? According to a recent study released by Emarketer Inc., we're most often turning to Web portals, shopping sites and information pages. Yahoo! was at the top of the list for home and office surfers, with 101.3 million visitors in the month of August alone. Rounding out the top 10 sites was Microsoft's corporate site,, Google, America Online, eBay, MapQuest,, RealNetworks and the Weather Channel, which helps prove that our social instinct to discuss the weather holds true in the online world, too.

But most often people are going online to search for information. A new paper from the Pew Internet & American Life Project Online reported that nearly 60 million people use search engines every day, and Nielsen/NetRatings counted 5.1 billion searches just in October, bringing Internet search just behind e-mail as the second-most-popular online activity.

Which have been the most popular? It is little surprise that Google, the company whose name has become synonymous with searching, would lead the list. In the Nielsen study, Google consumed 2.4 billion queries; that's nearly half of all searches. Yahoo, MSN search and AOL filled out the top four, conducting a respective 20 percent, 10 percent and 7 percent of search traffic. Ask Jeeves, which ranked fifth, charted the most dramatic rise in usage, with a 77 percent rise in traffic, which might equate with new search services, like "direct answers from search," that answers natural-language questions by culling information from the Web.

Even more telling than where we've gone online is what we've been looking for. Many search engines have released their most popular search terms of the year, and the resulting lists form a snapshot of the concerns of the online world. As the lists show, the year's tragic natural disasters played a large role, but politics and entertainment piqued Web searchers' interests as well.

Yahoo's top news searches of 2005:

  1. Tsunami 2. Iraq 3. Michael Jackson trial 4. Natalee Holloway 5. Afghanistan 6. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie 7. Hurricane Katrina 8. Cindy Sheehan 9. President Bush 10. Tom Cruise

Ask Jeeves' top news searches of 2005:

  1. President Bush 2. Iraq 3. Hurricane Katrina 4. Tsunami 5. Michael Jackson 6. Britney Spears 7. Natalee Holloway 8. American Idol 9. Xbox 360 10. Angelina Jolie

Google News' top searches of 2005:

  1. Janet Jackson 2. Hurricane Katrina 3. Tsunami 4. xbox 360 5. Brad Pitt 6. Michael Jackson 7. American Idol 8. Britney Spears 9. Angelina Jolie 10. Harry Potter

For an updated list of top searches, including most popular terms in categories like entertainment and sports, check out Yahoo!'s Buzz Index, or Google's Zeitgeist for more information.

Copyright 2005 Tech Tuesday

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