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Last Updated:  Friday, 21 March, 2003, 10:31 GMT
War tops net searches
The war in Iraq has become the most popular search on the web as millions turn to the internet to keep up with the latest news from the Gulf.

US F-18 Hornet aircraft
All attention focused on the war
The term "Iraq" knocked "NCAA Basketball" and rapper "50 Cent" off the top of Yahoo's Buzz Index of popular search terms among US surfers.

News websites have found themselves swamped with visitors, with several major sites coping with traffic two to three times higher than normal.

The spike in traffic reflects how the internet has emerged as a major source for breaking news during big events.

'Sex, Britney and travel'

Traditionally sex-related terms have dominated the most searched-for subjects on the web. But the war in Iraq has focused minds on more serious matters.

1 - Iraq
2 - NCAA Basketball
3 - War On Iraq
4 - 50 Cent
5 - American Idol

Yahoo has found that basketball and music is taking a back seat to Iraq in searches on its site by US surfers.

Other search terms which have becoming increasingly are also war-related, such as "e-bomb", "mustard gas" and "VX gas".

On Wednesday, ahead of the US bombing of Baghdad, Iraq ranked five on Yahoo's index of current search terms.

The picture is similar in the UK where the conflict has captured the attention of Britons online.

"War was our top search term today, taking over from perennial favourites - sex, Britney and travel," said Nadia Schofield, a spokeswoman for Freeserve, the UK's largest internet service provider.

The conflict with Iraq is the biggest war involving the United States since the internet became a major medium.

At the time of the last Gulf War in 1991, the internet was in its infancy and the cable networks were the dominant source for news for many people.

Since then the net has increasingly become a key source for news and communication, especially after the September 11 attacks on the US.

Visits to news sites have risen sharply since the war began and much of the discussion about the war is taking place on internet message boards and chat rooms.

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