netsearchThe internet is this humongous dynamic place with loads of information that enlightens people all over the world, and helps grown ups do their jobs better, children learn better, and all people communicate better. Right?

I’d like to agree that this holds true across the board. But somehow the latest google annual search trends report, has me a bit disillusioned.

Why?

Because the Google 2006 Year End Zeitgeist reflects what people all over the world are looking for on the net. And guess what tops the list of all “news searches” on the net? Paris Hilton. Yeh. Followed by Orlando Bloom. Yeh again. And the top 10 list includes Martina Hingis (at 7) and Big Brother 2006 (at 10).

Is this what occupies the minds of netizens worldwide??

Well I do feel a little reassured as we go down the list, and find more meaningful, search words – cancer, hurricane katrina, bankruptcy, autism… But hang on – these are all words with negative connotations, of ill-health and disasters!

Don’t people look for anything positive? Don’t people look for things like “investment opportunity” “making friends” “better parenting” or any such things?

For example – Google also gives each one of us a history of our own searches, provided we’ve done them logged into a google account and have cookies enabled.

Here’s what my own recent search history throws up:

Luc de Brabandere (he’s an author and consultant with BCG), CII (Confederation of Indian Industry), hands (don’t remember what on earth this was about?!), Raytheon (was planning to buy a Hawker… just kidding) Meta tags (part of my learning curve), Mitch Kapor (creator of Lotus 1-2-3 and now open source evangelist), Tera Patrick (hmm… pornstar, NSFW), indian industry, davos, and Eminem (yeh i think he’s cool!).

The point to note is, I actually use the net for work and research, while most people use it for entertainment. I also think most people look for Paris Hilton and such because that’s what they hear people are looking at… and most importantly people do not know what they can actually find on the net (but more on that later).

Google’s Zeitgeist also tracks searches by “what’s hot” “current events” “milestones” “entertainment” and “sport“. Here the results are not surprising:

  • Under “what’s hot” we interesting queries under heads like “define”, “who is”, “what is”but the most hilarious searches have happened under “how to…” There’s how to levitate, how to kickflip, how to draw, and get this, even how to scream!!
  • Iraq, North Korea, and Iran occupy top slots in “current events”
  • The rest of the categories are clearly North America and entertainment driven. But it’s good to see that people here are actually using the net to find tickets, show dates and times, sports results, with “olympics” and “world cup” related stuff driving the numbers – clearly vindicating the stand of all those who are using the net to complement their sales and marketing efforts.

Is that it? Well no. All those who are familiar with the report will realise I’ve left the most potent news for the last.

In the main google.com (not news specific) search trends, we clearly see where the net is headed. With 7 of the 10 top slots being occupied by user-generated mediabebo, myspace, metacafe, radioblogs, wikipedia, mininova, and wiki.

And if you scan the whole lot of search categories, you’ll notice that the three keywords that show up consistently are “wikis”, “podcasting” and “blog”.

Now that’s reassuring.

Because it’s obvious that the world is not only moving to a more dynamic way of communication, it is giving more people a voice and stage. It also indicates, that it’s the internet and user-generated media that will hold the key to the future of brands, and their reputation.

Also see: Blogging India Means Business.

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