The year 2013 may go down as the year that Americans were curious about a royal baby, horrified by the Boston Marathon bombing and concerned about wars, typhoons and shootings.
It also has been a year when people were fascinated by celebrities "twerking," getting arrested and ruining their careers.
Those words were some of the year's hottest topics, according to a list of the top trending search terms on Ask.com, a search engine focused on answering questions. The site had more than 100 million monthly users this year.
"They really do reflect the touch points of what people responded to the most," said Valerie Combs, a spokeswoman for Ask.com. "When we look at the news category, it really mirrors the big moments in the year."
The trending topics, which reflect U.S. searches, go beyond the usual everyday topics, like "How do I know I'm pregnant?" and "What's Justin Bieber's phone number?" Combs said. Instead, they focus on the top trending terms that broke out of the usual molds.
For the top news searches, the question Americans most wanted an answer to this year was, "What is the royal baby's name?"
Following that, Ask.com users were interested in where the Boston Marathon bomber was found; whether the U.S. was likely to invade Syria; how they could help victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, and why George Zimmerman was acquitted.
Rounding out the top 10 news-related searches were questions about the Navy Yard shooter; whether South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius killed his girlfriend; who was kidnapped by Ariel Castro; how deeply in debt the city of Detroit is, and why Pope Benedict XVI stepped down.
People interested in politics wanted to know, above all else, why the government shut down this fall.
Americans also wanted to know the location of Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who disclosed classified documents; why Proposition 8, a ban on gay marriage passed by California voters in 2008, was thrown out; who was "sexted" by former New York congressman Anthony Weiner, and when Obamacare would take effect.
Other top political questions included whether Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoked crack; if the National Security Agency was spying on Americans and why President Mohamed Morsi was overthrown in Egypt.
"Entertainment content moving through social media is driving demand on search," she added. "We're seeing celebrity searches taking up a bigger piece of the pie in the entertainment category. What's interesting is that the proliferation of social media is turning things that probably wouldn't have made a huge impact in the past, like Miley Cyrus's performance at the VMAs, for instance, into news events and increasing their search volume."
For celebrity searches, which make up about 10% of the questions on Ask.com, the top question of the year was why Kim Kardashian and Kanye West's baby was named North West.
After that, they wanted to know about singer Miley Cyrus twerking at the VMAs; how actor Cory Monteith died; what celebrity chef Paula Deen said to cause so much trouble in her career, and why actress Amanda Bynes was arrested.
Americans also wanted to know who will play Christian in the movie adaptation of the novel Fifty Shades of Grey and where they could go online to watch a video of actress Reese Witherspoon being arrested.
Many celebrities who made Ask.com's top search list in 2012 fell out of the top 10 this year. Actresses Kristen Stewart, Katie Holmes and Jessica Biel failed to make the top 10 search list this year. Don't feel too badly for them. Actor Brad Pitt and Britain's Prince Harry dropped off this year's list, too.
This article, Royal baby, Boston bombing and twerking top 2013 Ask.com searches, was originally published at Computerworld.com.
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is [email protected].
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