A year on the Internet

Google registered trillions of searches this year alone and a look back at a few of the most searched terms shows the highs and lows of the past twelve months. 

The Web has become an integral part of our lives. Most of us use it at work, at home, even when we aren't meant to. Aside from its addictive quality - one can seemingly never get anough cat videos - it has become our main source of information on anything from current affairs to random bits of trivia. 

Easily the largest and certainly the most prominent source of that information is Google. The search engine registered trillions of searches this year alone and a look back at a few of the most searched terms shows the highs and lows of the past twelve months. 

The search term 'Robin Williams' was the term most searched for all year. The death of the comedian and actor moved many - he was ground-breaking in his stand-up comedy, a fond embodiment of favourite childhood characters and a genuinely loved celebrity. 

Other topics in the top ten most searched this year were the World Cup, Ebola, Malaysia Airlines, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Flappy Bird, Conchita Wurst, ISIS, Frozen and the Sochi Olympics. 

In global news, Ebola was the most searched term, followed by ISIS, Malaysia Airlines, Crimea/Ukraine, Ferguson, Gaza and Israel, the Scottish referendum and the Oscar Pistorius trial. This list seems to support the thinking that the news never reports on happy events, though one could also argue that we, the audience, don't go searching for them either.

The Ebola virus
The Ebola virus

Celebrities in the Google limelight this year included bootylicious Kim Kardashin, French President Francois Hollande's 'secret lover' Julie Gayet, Tracy Morgan, who is in physical rehabilitation after a car accident six months ago, and Renee Zellwegger, whose cosmetic surgery got all the newsfeeds abuzzing. 

Jennifer Lawrence
Jennifer Lawrence

Topping this list however was Jennifer Lawrence. While her success as an actress in the Hunger Games franchise no doubt contributed to her ranking, the leaking of thousands of private celebrity photos, including Lawrence's, earlier this year likely boosted those numbers too.

The world lost a few legends this year too. Aside from the inimitable Williams, actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman, model Peaches Geldof, former child star and actress Shirley Temple, author Maya Angelou, comedienne Joan Rivers, writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez and actors Lauren Bacall, James Avery and Harold Ramis were the most searched names this year.

Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou

In consumer technology, the iPhone 6 ruled the roost of searched terms, with the Samsung Galaxy S5 in second and the Nexus 6 in third place. Though the top term was an Apple product, the fact that it is followed closely by two Android devices shows that while the iconic brand still has a strong following, more people seem to be willing to explore the world of the little green alien, at least in the Google search bar.

Youtube, the Google-owned video-sharing website, had its own top searches too. At number one was the 'Mutant Giant Spider Dog (SA Wardega)', a hilarious prank video that involves a few unsuspecting victims, some good theatre props and a dog dressed in a terrifying costume, no doubt wondering why no one would stop to pet him. The video has so far clocked a staggering 121 million views.


Also on the list is a Nike promotional video - 'Winner Stays' - which pits the football greats against one another. This video was viewed 101 million times since its release in April.

Next up is 'FIRST KISS', where director Tatia Pilieva gets 20 'strangers' to kiss on camera. The resulting video, complete with a touching indie soundtrack, caught the world's attention. Not long enough though to read the final credits, which make it clear that the participants were actors and the video was an ad for clothing. A little disappointing, certainly, but everyone loves romance, even if it is staged.

A quick look through our collective search history reveals a disparate of concerns, interests and curiosities that rather sums up the human condition. We wondered, and still wonder, what happened to Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Events in Crimea and Ukraine, Gaza, Palestine and Israel made us stop and think as images of suffering trickled onto our screens. We couldn't believe how a silly game like Flappy Bird became so popular.

We live, to increasing degrees, online and tools like Google offer insight into what makes us tick. An estimated 60% of the world's population has internet access. That's three billion people and set to grow as access becomes cheaper and easier. As more and more people join this global community, who knows what the next year on the internet will look like.