Coronavirus and sourdough – this is what we searched for online in 2020

(Edwin Hooper: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Victoria Masterson, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • Billions of Google searches show some topics had a surge of interest in 2020.
  • Many searches reflect global impact of the COVID pandemic.
  • Kobe Bryant, Joe Biden, Zoom, dalgona coffee and fostering a dog are among the most Googled terms.

When times are uncertain, people look for answers. Once our ancestors sought out seers, prophets and mystics. Now we type our queries into search engines.

Google’s Year in Search 2020 provides a snapshot of the fears, anxieties, distractions and obsessions of an extraordinary year. Some of our questions are reassuringly similar wherever we are in the world; others illuminate our cultural quirks and differences. https://www.youtube.com/embed/rokGy0huYEA?enablejsapi=1&wmode=transparent

Google has analyzed the billions of search requests it processes every day, and identified the terms that have had the highest spike this year compared to 2019. Unsurprisingly, “coronavirus” topped the overall list.

a list showing the top ten google searches of the year.
Coronavirus dominated this year’s top searches. Image: Google

ABCs to Zoom

The search trends show the impact of the COVID pandemic on so many aspects of life. Relatively obscure teleconferencing company Zoom became a household name (and highly profitable business) as employees adapted to working from home, and friends and families turned to video calls instead of meeting in person.

Google Classroom was one of several online resources that provided education to millions of children affected by school closures. Searches for “how to foster a dog” reached an all-time high as social distancing triggered a yearning for the companionship of a pet.

a chart showing how the number of searches for fostering a dog have risen dramatically this year.
2020 has been a good year for dogs. Image: Google

Bread dominated the top trending recipes as people trapped indoors during lockdowns became keen amateur bakers – although even sourdough, banana bread and naan couldn’t keep up with the booming popularity of Korean dalgona coffee and Greek dessert ekmek kataifi.

Most Googled people

Tom Hanks and Amitabh Bachchan were among the most Googled movie stars not because of their work in 2020, but as high-profile sufferers of the virus. https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1282002456063295490&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.weforum.org%2Fagenda%2F2020%2F12%2Fgoogle-most-popular-search-2020%2F&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px

There were other major news stories that drove big spikes in search traffic. The US elections prompted a flood of queries, with Joe Biden the most trending person (his running mate Kamala Harris also featuring high on the list). Fans reacted in droves to the deaths of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, actor Chadwick Boseman, and Bollywood heartthrob Sushant Singh Rajput.


The death of George Floyd drew attention to racial injustice. In the US, there was a huge spike in searches asking how to help or donate to Black Lives Matter. The term “how to be an ally” even outstripped the ever popular search “how to be an influencer”.

a chart from google searches on how to be a racial ally
The death of George Floyd drew attention to racial injustice and prompted the Black Lives Matter movement. Image: Google

The growing availability of internet access in India was apparent, with searches for the IPL (Indian Premier League) cricket league, “India vs New Zealand” and the election in the Indian state of Bihar all high on global lists.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about ensuring access to the internet for all?

In 2018, internet connectivity finally reached over half the world’s population. Yet some 3.4 billion people – about 50% of the world’s population – are still not online.

Although much progress has been made in closing this digital divide, the challenge remains overwhelming, complex and multidimensional. It requires a collaborative, multistakeholder approach to overcome four key barriers to internet inclusion: infrastructure; affordability; skills, awareness and cultural acceptance; and relevant content.

The World Economic Forum launched Internet for All in 2016 to provide a platform where leaders from government, private-sector, international organizations, non-profit organizations, academia and civil society could come together and develop models of public-private collaboration for internet inclusion globally.Achieving Internet for All

Since its launch, Internet for All has achieved significant on-the-ground results globally – including launching four operational country programmes in Rwanda, South Africa, Argentina and Jordan.

Read more about our results, and ongoing efforts to ensure access to the internet for all in our impact story.

Contact us to partner with the Forum and shape the future of our digital economy.

Our soft spot for an against-the-odds survival story was clearly demonstrated by the huge spike in searches for NASCAR driver Ryan Newman, who walked out of hospital just days after a horrific crash during a race at Daytona.

In a year where entertainment has been at a premium, Oscar-winning Korean film Parasite, Netflix documentary Tiger King, Cardi B’s song WAP, and online multiplayer game Among Us all piqued our interest.

DIY trends

And when the businesses we rely on were forced to shut their doors, we looked up how to do things ourselves, from making our own hand sanitizer and face masks, to cutting hair. https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1337486131336777734&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.weforum.org%2Fagenda%2F2020%2F12%2Fgoogle-most-popular-search-2020%2F&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px

The trends also offer a unique insight into our national tastes. Along with the ubiquitous bread recipes, Britons wanted to cook up a beef bourguignon, Americans were pining for Disney churros, Germans were curious about cornflakes, while in Nigeria it was something that packed more of a punch – the pornstar martini.

But sometimes it is the simplest of answers that we need. April saw a record spike in people asking “what day is it?” In a year when even that is uncertain, we are fortunate that so much knowledge is just a click away.

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