As the end of the year approaches, a look at what people searched for and shared online can start painting a picture of what most interested people during 2011.
Microsoft this week released a list of top search queries on Bing , while AOL released a similar list and Facebook weighed in with the most-shared news stories by its users.
Google, the world's largest search service, hasn't yet released its top 2011 search queries, but nevertheless one can already get an idea of what most captivated people throughout the year.
Based on those reports, online user interest was all over the map this year, ranging from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March to zodiac signs, faithful dogs and criminal trials.
The disaster in Japan drew a lot of attention -- in fact, Facebook said satellite images of hard-hit areas before and after the disaster published in the New York Time's was the most shared news article of the year.
Microsoft and AOL noted that the Japan disaster was the fourth most searched story on their respective search sites.
Stories on the Casey Anthony trial, the death of Osama Bin Laden and Hurricane Irene were also among the most popular search items on Bing.
The most shared articles on Facebook showed a bit more user eccentricity.
Two of the top 10 shared articles on Facebook were about zodiac signs, and another was about a giant crocodile captured in the Philippines. Facebook's dog lovers were shared stories about a faithful dog mourning the death of a Navy SEAL and about a dog in Japan staying with his friend in the rubble of the earthquake and tsunami.
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin , or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is email@example.com .
Read more about internet search in Computerworld's Internet Search Topic Center.