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What are Malaysians searching for?

WHAT are internet users in Malaysia interested in? Other than sex, which isn’t peculiar to Malaysians alone, popular topics in recent times include Elizabeth Wong, Umno, Formula One, job vacancies and the Apple iPhone 3G.

At least that’s what the top searches and fastest-growing searches on Google indicate.

(Pic by Rcmathiraj / Dreamstime)

Insights for Search

Google zeitgeist releases a list of the search trends every year, by aggregating the millions of search queries it received during that period. Drawing form the German word “zeitgeist”, which means the spirit of the times, the list tries to capture the general trend of thought or feeling that is characteristic of a particular period in time. What are people thinking of, interested in and, thus, searching for?

We don’t have to wait for that annual announcement to get a glimpse of how the spirit of the times is changing. One of the tools the search engine giant uses to compile the zeitgeist list is Insights for Search.

The top searches category looks at search terms that have the most significant level of interest among Google users.

Meanwhile, the rising searches category lists searches that have seen significant growth in a given period, compared with the preceding year, quarter or month. It also provides the growth rate for each search term, except for increases that are higher than 5,000%, which are described to have “breakout” growth. Malaysia scored one of those in recent months. Details below.

In an effort to weed out materials that may be deemed offensive or inappropriate, Insights for Search filters out search terms that are explicitly sexual or are about adult content.

This might be a good move. Sex tends to top the list of search topics most of the time (with exceptions such as when internet surfers chose Osama bin Laden over sex in 2001). If we filtered out sex, what else are people thinking of?

What are Malaysians searching for?

The top searches for Malaysia in 2008 were largely for search engines like Yahoo and Google, and social networking sites like Friendster and YouTube. These and media websites like Malaysiakini, Harakah, TV3 and Malaysia Today were among the search terms that saw significant increase.

That was last year. What about this year?

There’s little difference in the list of top searches, but the list of fastest-growing searches shows that the interests or concerns among internet users in Malaysia have changed.

Rising searches (1 Jan-14 April 2009)

1. elizabeth wong  Breakout (growth rate higher than 5,000%)
3. 4shared
4. mudah
5. tagged
6. kosmo
7. facebook
8. google map
9. 4d
10. jawatan kosong   

The search for information on Elizabeth Wong saw “breakout” growth in recent months after the public distribution of intimate pictures or videos of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat assemblyperson for Bukit Lanjan in February 2009.

Netizens searched for news on Wong and discussed it openly in the media and blogs. Some quarters did not hesitate to cast the first proverbial stone, while others argued for her right to privacy and sexuality. Some bloggers warned visitors not to send them any pictures or videos of Wong, while voyeurs searched for them and even posted them on their sites.

Wong has been very popular
Anything sexual in nature would already in itself attract attention. In Wong’s case, this, plus her being a politician and a woman, turned out to be an irresistible combination for some.

Social networking has continued to be popular, with sites like Facebook and Tagged, and free online file sharing and storage site, 4shared, among the top 10 fastest-growing searches so far this year.

Also on the top 10 list was online marketplace,

In these tough economic times, it is probably no surprise that the search for job vacancies and hopes of striking the lottery (more specifically, 4D) were also among the fastest-growing searches lately.

Past 30 days

Some of these were pushed off the top ranks in the past 30 days, as attention shifted to Earth Hour on 28 March 2009, the Formula One race hosted by Malaysia from 3 to 5 April 2009, and the Umno general assembly and elections at the end of March 2009.

Rising searches (14 March-14 April 2009)

1. earth hour   +1,650%
2. f1 +300%
3.   +190%
4. umno +170%
5. politeknik +100%
6. lhdn +100%
7. spa8 +80%
8. iphone +70%
9. youtube +40%
10. tagged +40%

Another matter that was clearly on people’s mind in the past 30 days was income tax, thus the popularity of the search term “lhdn” (Lembaga Hasil Dalam Negeri or the Inland Revenue Board). If you haven’t filed your personal income tax returns, you have two more weeks to do so before the deadline on 30 April 2009.

Some internet users have narrowed their job search to vacancies in the public service as news of the private sector downsizing become more common. The government, on the other hand, is hiring. The Public Services Commission, which handles personnel appointment for the public service, was among the fastest-growing searches in the past 30 days, as was its SPA 8 form, which job-seekers are required to fill.

Politics, Earth House, jobs and taxes were not the only things on people’s mind during this period. Many were also eagerly watching out for the gadget that was all the rage: the much-awaited Apple iPhone 3G, launched by Maxis on 20 March 2009.

Will these searches continue to grow or be overtaken by other interests soon? There’s trouble brewing in the Terengganu Barisan Nasional; the decision on Wong’s political fate was made yesterday; there will be more court developments arising from the Perak constitutional crisis; and job security remains a worry. It looks like politics and job vacancies will continue to hog the limelight for now.

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One Response to “What are Malaysians searching for?”

  1. Shao says:

    Also instructive to look at is the listing for top websites in the country. See:

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