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.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

New EU rules ensure better protection for 120 million holidaymakers this summer

European Border and Coast Guard: 10 000-strong standing corps by 2027

Google succumbs unconditionally to EU’s “right to be forgotten” ruling

COVID-19 will hit the developing world’s cities hardest. Here’s why

Tributes for ‘role model’ former UN refugee agency chief, Sadako Ogata

The big five EU telecom operators in dire straights

AI can wreak havoc if left unchecked by humans

Clamp down on illegal trade in pets, urge Public Health Committee MEPs

As conflicts become more complex, ‘mediation is no longer an option; it is a necessity’, UN chief tells Security Council

We are ‘burning up our future’, UN’s Bachelet tells Human Rights Council

Hydrogen isn’t the fuel of the future. It’s already here

5 ways COVID-19 has changed workforce management

Terrorism and migrants: the two awful nightmares for Europe and Germany in 2016

EU job-search aid worth €2 million for 500 former shipbuilding workers in Spain

France pushes UK to stay and Germany to pay

Where EU air pollution is deadliest

China rare earth prices soar on their potential role in trade war

Harmonised Unemployment Rates (HURs), OECD – Updated: February 2020

UN spotlights wellbeing of seafarers on International Day

‘Much more’ can be done to raise awareness about the plight of persons with albinism: UN chief

UN-backed intercultural dialogue forum urged to keep working to ‘bridge gap between the like-minded’

EU joint response to disasters: deal reached with Council

Combatting terrorism: Parliament sets out proposals for a new EU strategy

This South Korean city once had the biggest coronavirus outbreak outside of China. Now it’s reported zero new cases

Commission moves to ensure supply of personal protective equipment in the European Union

5 crises that could worsen under COVID-19

Finland has just published everyone’s taxes on ‘National Jealousy Day’

ITU Telecom World 2017: exploring smart digital transformation

European Parliament calls on Russia to end occupation of Georgian territories

5 neuroscience hacks that will make you happier

RescEU: MEPs vote to upgrade EU civil protection capacity

All for equality – 2020 is a pivotal year for Gender Equality

Deeper reforms in Korea will ensure more inclusive and sustainable growth

UN Climate Action Summit concludes with insufficient EU and global pledges

Milk, fruits and vegetables distributed to schoolchildren thanks to EU programme

China’s cities are rapidly becoming more competitive. Here’s why

Security Council must ‘come together’ to address the plight of children trapped in armed conflict, says UN envoy

EU Migrant Crisis: Italian Coast Guard Headquarters and Italian Navy to give host national opening addresses at Border Security 2016 in Rome

New EU-UK agreement is welcome but thorough scrutiny remains, insist lead MEPs

Coal addiction ‘must be overcome’ to ease climate change, UN chief says in Bangkok

EU27 leaders unite on Brexit Guidelines ahead of “tough negotiations” with Theresa May

How to get young people in Europe to swipe right on voting

This is Amsterdam’s ambitious plan to turn its transport electric

Reforms in Latvia must result in stronger enforcement to tackle foreign bribery and subsequent money laundering risks

Parliament boosts consumer rights online and offline

What is systemic racism, and how can we combat it?

EU Council approves visa-free travel for Ukraine and cement ties with Kiev

Powering a climate-neutral economy: Commission sets out plans for the energy system of the future and clean hydrogen

Marginalized groups hit hardest by inequality and stigma in cities

OECD joins with Japan to fight financial crime by establishing new academy

The business case for diversity in the workplace is now overwhelming

EU Parliament and Council: Close to agreement on the bank resolution mechanism

Poor quality is healthcare’s silent killer. Here’s what we can do about it

ECB asks for more subsidies to banks

Global trade is broken. Here are five ways to rebuild it

Intervene, don’t overthink – the new mantra of systems design

We need natural solutions to fight ocean and climate risk

EU Parliament: No EU-US trade agreement without safe data

The MWC14 Sting Special Edition

Italy and Greece zeroed their fiscal deficits, expect Germany’s response

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s