Google wheel of fortune turns on Chatroulette


Concerns about budget cuts and bailouts were not reflected in Irish searches on Google

EVEN BY the standards of the web it was a flash in the pan but Chatroulette, a site that allows you have video chats with random strangers, was the fastest-growing search term on Google in 2010.

According to Google’s Zeitgeist, an annual analysis of the billions of searches carried out on the web search engine, Chatroulette attracted the largest surge in traffic from Irish web users this year. It also topped a global ranking of fastest-growing searches.

Developed by a Russian teenager and launched in late 2009, Chatroulette enjoyed a surge in popularity earlier this year after a string of media articles about the quirky service.

Its popularity quickly petered out when it became dominated by young single males looking to view or perform acts that are best kept in private rather than shared with random strangers on the web.

Google provides a tool called Insight for Search which allows further analysis of the search terms.

This shows Waterford residents were most likely to be looking for Chatroulette, followed by people in Limerick, Cork, Dublin and Galway.

Reflecting web culture’s obsession with the next new thing, Google’s charts highlight the fastest-growing terms that people are searching for rather than what ranked highest in absolute terms.

Although it may have been a year dominated by budget cuts and bailouts, this was not reflected in what Irish people were looking for through Google.

Despite our belief that we are a nation of sportsmen and women, a computer game topped the chart for sports-related searches. Fifa 11, a football computer game, attracted more curiosity than real events such as the Galway Races, Ryder Cup and the Grand National, which trailed in its wake.

Cee Lo Green, the American singer whose charmingly titled F*** Yousingle became an internet sensation after it was leaked on YouTube, topped the music category.

That particular list underlined Ireland’s ongoing love affair with the Eurovision song contest. “Eurovision 2010” was at number three in music-related searches while Ireland’s contestant Niamh Kavanagh was ranked seventh.

Gerry Ryan, the 2FM DJ who died unexpectedly in April, was the most searched for personality on Google Ireland with a massive surge in queries in the days and weeks after his death.

Wayne Rooney came in third behind teen pop singer Justin Bieber, although as Google Ireland pointed out it was unsure whether the English footballer’s popularity was due to “his highly contentious wage increase at Manchester United or his extramarital activities”.

Google did release one chart of the 10 most popular Irish searches rather than the fastest growing.

Top of this list was Facebook, followed by video site YouTube and Microsoft’s web-mail service Hotmail.

Bebo, the once dominant social network, came in at number four but analysis of the data shows that the traffic peaked in April when AOL announced it had decided to sell or close the service.