The proliferation of computers and mobile devices and their reliance on the internet reflects that mankind’s propensity for community — staying connected literally and figuratively — and curiosity is alive and well. Back in 1996, Ask Jeeves, an early pioneer in search engines, allowed users to seek information by asking questions posed in everyday language. Jeeves (based on the character created by British author P.G. Wodehouse) was the fictional digital valet who would ostensibly fetch the answers. Jeeves was retired in 2006 — perhaps because of his salary, stock option, and health insurance demands. Ask Jeeves became simply, Ask.com. Although Google began to overshadow Ask.com as early as 2010, Ask.com influenced an entire generation of internet users to simply type in a question. Questions now make up a large percentage of what is entered into search engines.
What questions web users pose provides an interesting window into what piques American curiosity. The most Googled questions reveal a fascination with the eternal question (What is love?), medical conditions, and technology. Below is Google’s top ten list of questions in the United States in 2013:
1. What is Twerking?
2. What is Ricin?
3. What is DOMA?
4. What is Molly?
5. What is Gluten?
6. What is Sequestration?
7. What is Obamacare?
8. What is Lupus?
9. What is Snapchat?
10. What is Bitcoin?
Below is Google’s top ten list of questions in the United States in 2011:
1. What is love?
2. What is Planking?
3. What is Twitter?
4. What is Gluten?
5. What is Skype?
6. What is Dubstep?
7. What is Autism?
8. What is Lupus?
9. What is Gout?
10. What is Google+?
Ask.com also posts its list of top ten questions for 2012 in the United States. It differs dramatically from the Google list in that it is dominated by queries on current events and celebrities:
1. Will Rob (Pattinson) and Kristen (Stewart) get back together?
2. Katie Holmes. Was Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise’s marriage fake?
3. Psy – Gangnam Style. What does Gangnam Style mean?
4. Snooki. When is Snooki’s baby due?
5. Prince Harry. What will happen to Prince Harry because of the nude pictures?
6. Brad Pitt. How big is Angelina’s engagement ring?
7. Carly Rae Jepsen. What is the best Call Me Maybe parody?
8. Jessica Biel. When are Justin and Jessica getting married?
9. Miley Cyrus. Why did Miley Cyrus cut her hair?
10. Ryan Lochte. Does Ryan Lochte have a girlfriend?
Ask.com’s top ten questions from 2011:
1. How big was the earthquake in Japan?
2. What caused Hurricane Irene?
3. How much was Steve Jobs worth?
4. What did William whisper to Kate on the balcony?
5. Who started Occupy Wall Street?
6. When will Apple release the iPhone 5?
7. Who killed Bin Laden?
8. Where is Casey Anthony hiding?
9. What is happening on the 10th anniversary of 9/11?
10. How did Amy Winehouse die?
1. What is the meaning of life?
2. Why is the sky blue?
3. What is true love?
4. When will the world end?
5. Who am I?
6. Is there a God?
7. Where do babies come from?
8. Which came first the chicken or the egg?
9. When will I die?
10. What happens when you die?
For further reading: www.googlezeitgeist.com/en/top-lists/us/quirky/what-is. http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2397079,00.asp. http://sp.ask.com/2009/topquestions.html#context66