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Old September 20, 2001, 01:33 PM
Simon Latouche
 
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Default For The First Time In History "Sex" Drops Off The Lists Of Top 10 Search Terms.

PALO ALTO, Calif. (Reuters) - Osama bin Laden has displaced Pamela
Anderson in cyberspace and people looking for information about the
American flag outnumbered those curious about Britney Spears.

For the first time in the short history of the Internet, popular search
engines report that "sex" dropped off their lists of top 10 search terms
in the days following the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

"Popular search terms last week turned almost exclusively to
disaster-related information," said David Emanuel, spokesman for the
popular search engine AltaVista, which tracks top search terms. Almost all
perennial favorites like Pamela Anderson Lee, Britney Spears and
Backstreet Boys were knocked off the list.

Sex, a longtime favorite usually in the top 10, dropped to No. 17, Emanuel
said.

Instead of entertainment and assorted fluff that has for years attracted
the bulk of all Internet traffic, it was news, news and more news that
people were looking for on AltaVista. CNN, News, World Trade Center, BBC
and Pentagon were the top searches on the site last week.

The search engine Google, which tracks shifting preferences by measuring
the top gaining and declining queries each week, saw the same basic
pattern.

Topics related to sports, television and computers dropped in popularity
on Google. Its top gainers were CNN, World Trade Center, Osama bin Laden,
Taliban, American Flag, FBI, Pentagon, American Airlines and American Red
Cross.

But it was not all news all the time on Google. The company said that no
term enjoyed such a surge in popularity as Nostradamus.

The 16th-century French astrologer, whose cryptic predictions may or may
not have forecast everything that has ever happened, came into the
spotlight following some widely circulated e-mails suggesting he had
foretold such an attack in a prophecy that has been translated to read "in
the year of the new century and nine months...."

Ask Jeeves, another Internet search service that lets visitors enter
plain-English questions such as "Where is the World Trade Center?" said
the majority of questions it received last week were in fact about the
World Trade Center. Still, questions about Nostradamus did outnumber those
about Osama bin Laden on its Web site.

At Yahoo News, producers had grown used to the funny, the quirky and the
sexy stories getting more hits than the serious ones.

Until last week.

"You can see the nation's clearly obsessed with this tragedy," said
Kourosh Karimkhany, senior producer for Yahoo News.

He said Yahoo's traffic had surged to at least 10 times normal levels
since last week, and the overwhelming number of visitors were seeking
information about the attacks.
 


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