War, music, magic on minds of

Inquiring minds searched the Internet on a virtual cornucopia of topics during 2001, stretching from war and terrorism to music, magic and prophecy, according to a listing of top queries released this week by Google Inc.

The popular search engine compiled results from its 150 million daily searches, to produce lists of the most-sought-after people, products and things in 2001.

Perhaps it wasn’t all that surprising that during this tumultuous and unpredictable year, the subject that most plagued the thoughts of Internet users was 16th-century French prophet Nostradamus, who came in the top male query and the top gaining query on Google’s lists. While the search engine didn’t speculate on why Nostradamus nabbed these spots, in all likelihood rumors that the prophet predicted the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. fueled public curiosity.

In fact, the events and personalities surrounding Sept. 11 permeated Google’s 2001 zeitgeist. Suspected terrorism mastermind Osama bin Laden ranked the number-two male query, as well as the seventh top-gaining query. The World Trade Center was the third gaining query, while the Taliban was the ninth and Afghanistan the 11th. The anthrax scare garnered the bacteria the number five gaining query spot and popular news destination CNN ranked second in gaining inquiries.

Internet users weren’t solely focused on these sobering topics, however, as many users sought the more intoxicating subjects of sultry singers Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez and Madonna. Teenybopper Spears ranked the top queried woman, while Lopez came in third and Madonna fourth. The second most-sought-after woman was buxom actress Pamela Anderson.

Male singing stars also garnered ample attention, with Eminem standing up as the third most searched male, followed by Michael Jackson at number four. Beatle George Harrison, who passed away earlier this month, was the sixth most-queried male, according to Google.

In terms of top searched musical groups, The Beatles ranked number one, followed by U2, ‘NSync and the Backstreet Boys.

Peer-to-peer file-swapping sites came and went this year, however. According to Google, free file swapper Audiogalaxy was the number eight gaining query and KaZaA was the 17th gaining search. Napster, the file swapper that started it all, was the fifth declining query, however, and Gnutella came in as the fourth declining search.

The top declining query for 2001 was Pokemon, followed by “Olympics.” In a sign that the public has lost interest in the problem-fraught 2000 U.S. presidential election, “vote” came in third in top declining queries and “election results” was the sixth declining, followed by “electoral college.”

Apparently having had enough with problems, Internet users turned to fun and games. Google’s top new products ranked by search queries included Microsoft Corp.’s new gaming system Xbox at number two, followed by Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.’s PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Co. Ltd.’s Gamecube.

The number one new product in terms of search queries was Microsoft’s new Windows XP operating system.

But the software maker didn’t appear on the list of top brands for the year. Heading that list was Nokia Corp., then Sony at number two and luxury car maker BMW in third place. Handheld vendor Palm Inc. ranked number four in brands, just ahead of Adobe Systems Inc. and Dell Computer Corp.

In terms of movies, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone took the most-searched prize, with Lord of the Rings close behind.

From searching on magic to music, to current events and a centuries-old seer, once again the Internet proved itself to be a rich and varied resource.

Google, in Mountain View, California, can be reached at +1-650-330-0100 or http://www.google.com/.