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How a wink charmed Indians on Google in 2018

By Aria Thaker

The FIFA World Cup, the price of bitcoin, and a winking actress were among the favourite topics India searched for on the internet in 2018.

On Dec. 12, Google India released the top search trends of the past year, broken down into several lists categorised by type. Terms were ranked according to how strong their spike in searches was this year as compared to last year.

The top three searches overall were sports-related. The FIFA World Cup 2018 held in Russia this year headed the list. “Live score” trended the second most, and the Indian Premier League cricket tournament came in third.

Quite a few of Google’s toppers in India this year were political subjects. “Karnataka election results,” referring to the state assembly poll held in May, was the fourth most popular trending search overall.

Here are the top searches overall:

Rank Search Term
1 FIFA World Cup 2018
2 Live score
3 IPL 2018
4 Karnataka election results
5 Baal Veer
6 Bigg Boss
7 Robot 2.0
8 Asia Cup 2018
9 Motu Patlu
10 Asian Games 2018

Perhaps the most surprising part was the fact that Priya Prakash Varrier, a minor celebrity, topped the list of trending personalities. The 19-year-old actress from the southern state of Kerala shot to brief, viral fame with a saucy wink in a music video teaser this February, and has barely been seen in national media since. She beat far more famous stars, like Bollywood actors Priyanka Chopra and Salman Khan, to the top spot.

Absent entirely from Google’s lists, however, was actress Sunny Leone, who has been the top searched personality for several years, including in 2015 and 2017.

Rank Personality
1 Priya Prakash Varrier
2 Nick Jonas
3 Sapna Choudhary
4 Priyanka Chopra
5 Anand Ahuja
6 Sara Ali Khan
7 Salman Khan
8 Meghan Markle
9 Anup Jalota
10 Boney Kapoor

Okay, Google

Google has also revealed the top 10 searches in India that began with the words “What is…”

At the top of this list was “What is section 377.” Section 377 was a colonial-era law that criminalised homosexuality, which was struck down by India’s supreme court in early September. Quite a few of the other “What is” searches were political as well, including “What is happening in Syria” coming in second place, and “What is me too campaign” coming in fourth. India saw a large #MeToo wave this year, with many high-profile men accused of sexual harassment in the journalism and entertainment fields facing consequences for their actions.

Rank What is….
1 What is section 377
2 What is happening in Syria
3 What is kiki challenge
4 What is me too campaign
5 What is ball tampering
6 What is Nipah virus
7 What is cardiac arrest
8 What is lunar eclipse
9 What is no confidence motion
10 What is SC ST act

Other terms on the list of top 10 news searches were related to the price of bitcoin, the Statue of Unity—now the world’s tallest statue, unveiled in Gujarat in October—and the weddings of three different Bollywood celebrities.

Top searches that began with “How to” saw Indians trying to learn how to send stickers to one another on WhatsApp, how to invest in bitcoin, and how to link one’s Aadhaar, a biometrics-based identity number, with one’s mobile number.

Rank How to…
1 How to send stickers on Whatsapp
2 How to link Aadhaar with mobile number
3 How to make rangoli
4 How to port mobile number
5 How to invest in bitcoin
6 Ayushman Bharat how to apply
7 How to remove colour from face
8 How to check 10th result 2018
9 How to solve Rubik’s cube
10 How to check name in NRC Assam