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Saturday, 22 September, 2001, 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK
Surfers choose Bin Laden over sex
Osama Bin Laden and Britney Spears
Britney Spears fell out of the top 10
By BBC News Online's Kevin Anderson in Washington

A number of people have said their priorities have changed in the wake of the terror attacks in the United States, and it appears that the internet was no exception.

Sex, song lyrics and Britney Spears usually top internet searches, but they all dropped out of the top 10 as people searched for information on the World Trade Center, news sites, Osama Bin Laden and the American flag.

Sex was the big loser.

Popular search site Google said 80% of the top 500 queries conducted on 11 September related to the terror attacks.

But in addition to searches for news networks and information relating to the Trade Center and the Pentagon, web surfers were fascinated by 16th century French astrologer Nostradamus and reports - spread by e-mail - that he predicted the attacks.

Sex loses lustre

At search site AltaVista, sex was the big loser.

The perennial top 10 search topic fell all the way to 17th, according to David Emanuel, spokesman for AltaVista.

Search site Ask Jeeves works not by keywords but by users typing in questions such as "Where is the White House?"

Prior to 11 September, its most frequently asked question concerned music lyrics.

Britney Spears
Britney Spears was less popular than Nostradamus
On an average day between 25,000 and 30,000 such queries are received, said Carrie Bishop, a spokesperson for the site.

But she said: "On Tuesday, 11 September, Ask Jeeves received more than 186,000 questions about the World Trade Center".

Users also asked where they could find "news about the national tragedy", who was Osama Bin Laden and what was the status of rescue efforts.

Ms Bishop said that users also wanted information about Pearl Harbour.

Many Americans likened the terror strikes to the Japanese attack that brought the US into World War II.


Google has a feature called Zeitgeist that tracks search trends by listing the top 10 queries on the rise and on the decline.

On the day of the attacks, the top five queries were CNN, World Trade Center, BBC, Pentagon and MSNBC.

Those searches that declined included searches on US sports network ESPN and the NFL, the American football league.

But by the end of the week, the search topic that gained the most at Google was Nostradamus.

E-mails circulated saying that Nostradamus predicted the attacks with references to the "new century and nine months" and "two steel birds".

Interest was so great that one site that had a searchable index of his writings said the feature was unavailable due to excessive traffic.

But the site dispelled the claims of the various e-mails.

It said writings attributed to Nostradamus predicting the attack were badly corrupted, mistranslated, twisted to fit events or in some cases pure inventions.

See also:

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Farm Aid called off
22 Sep 01 | Reviews
'A prayer for our fallen'
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