Notorious trials, political scandals and social uprisings drew people online, but the death of Osama bin Laden and the dominance of the iPhone — fueled by the passing of Apple founder Steve Jobs - topped online searches and news in 2011.
For 10 years, Yahoo! has analyzed its aggregate search data to gauge the top stories, compelling newsmakers, and viral fads. The Internet giant, visited every month by some 700 million people worldwide, debuted on Dec. 1 its "Top 10 News" topics, based on searches and top stories.
Top 10s include the Arab uprising, political sex scandals led by former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, heroic acts, a chronological review of extreme weather, notable endings that range from the space shuttle program to Oprah Winfrey's daytime program, and a review of "obsessions" like planking, Charlie Sheen and the Tiger Mom meme.
This year, a technological marvel came in at No. 1 — and even that had played a role in protests.
"This year the iPhone became available through other providers," says Vera Chan, senior editor and a Web trend analyst at Yahoo!, of the Apple product. "It now comes with a talking personal assistant. It comes in white, which for some people was like the elusive unicorn. And don't forget, even though pundits were disappointed it wasn't a major upgrade, the iPhone 4s helped Apple become, for a brief moment, the most valuable company in the world.
"As if that weren't enough, the phone facilitated political movements around the world. And of course, the iPhone - as well as all the other technological marvels to come from Apple — is the embodiment of the vision of Steve Jobs." Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, died on Oct. 5. The iPhone 4S debuted nine days later, to record sales.
By its nature, breaking news doesn't always crack the Top 10: People don't have to search for details they get in the news, and it's rare that a single term can stand for a complex news story. Yet this year, Casey Anthony, Osama bin Laden, and the Japanese earthquake and tsunami all figured into the top ranking.
Other 2011 developments, identified in the Yahoo! Year in Review:
* Casey Anthony, most searched person.