A year in search: Olympics, elections and the iPhone 5


The iPhone 5, released this fall, gathered a lot of attention in search this year. (Justin Sullivan/GETTY IMAGES)
December 3, 2012

Yahoo released its list of top online searches for 2012 as part of its annual “Year in Review” on Monday, offering a recap of the year as seen through queries.

Unsurprisingly, the 2012 election and the London Olympics both made the list, as did Apple’s latest gadget, the iPhone 5.

The word “elections” was the top-searched term, marking the third time in 10 years that a news event has grabbed the highest spot, according to Yahoo — Michael Jackson’s death in 2009 and the BP oil spill in 2011. This year, the term “political polls” also made it into the top 10 search terms on Yahoo, at number eight, and was also marked as a Yahoo-user “obsession, defined as a high-volume search term that has a significant spike from the previous year.

The iPhone 5 — the second most-searched term overall — was the report’s top obsession as well.

The Olympics weighed in at number seven, overall. The rest of the search terms on the list were celebrities. Kim Kardashian — a common sight on the list since 2009 — came in third on the list. She was followed by fourth-place Sports Illustrated model Kate Hudson, the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton in fifth place, late singer Whitney Houston in sixth place, and actress Lindsay Lohan taking the number nine slot. Another list fixture, Jennifer Lopez, came in at number 10.

The Yahoo list shares similarities with those released by Microsoft’s Bing search engine and Ask.com last month — with a few exceptions.

Bing released several lists, but its list of top news stories showed the iPhone 5 edging out the 2012 Elections, followed by searches for the 2012 Olympics, Hurricane Sandy and the Honey Boo Boo reality show.

Tech and viral video rounded out most of the bottom half of Bing’s list: The Gangnam Style dance, KONY 2012, the Academy Awards, Kindle Fire HD and the Facebook IPO made slots six through 10.

When it comes to technology searches, the iPhone 5 topped both Bing and Yahoo’s lists of top gadgets. Apple had more dominance on Yahoo, where the iPhone 5, iPad 3 and iPad mini grabbed the top three spots on the list of gadget searches. Samsung’s Galaxy SIII followed that trio by Yahoo’s reckoning. On Bing’s list, it landed the number three spot behind the iPhone 5 and a generic search for “iPad.”

Amazon’s Kindle line showed up on both lists. Windows 8 squeaked in at number 10 on Bing’s list, but didn’t show up on any other compilation of terms for the year.

Ask.com’s lists centered specifically around celebrity, political and news questions. In the news category, the 2012 Olympics were the top term, followed by Hurricane Sandy, the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shootings, the Jerry Sandusky trial and the iPhone 5.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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