My favourite blog on all dotty things Web 2.0, Mashable, just published a note about the top Google search terms in 2006, which is more intriguing than you might think. The number one search term for the year? "Bebo". Really.
In fact, if you look at the top 10 searches, most of them (certainly 1,2,4,5 and 6) are not really searches at all, but rather navigation shortcuts. People aren't typing in "bebo" or "wikipedia" because they don't know where to find the site. They're typing them into Google and clicking on the top result because that's faster than typing "www.wikipedia.org" into the browser's address box.
The top 10 searches on Yahoo, on the other hand, are traditional searches on topics without obvious destination websites: Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, American Idol, etc. Surfers seem to be associating Yahoo with media and entertainment, which reflects the type of content directory Yahoo has become.
The fact that Google's role as a navigation start-point now eclipses its role as a search tool seems to have gone unnoticed. But surely this is significant. It means that Google is so entrenched as a start page, most competitors -- be it better search engines, or Web 2.0 start pages like Netvibes -- won't make much of a dent in Google's desktop pre-eminence. What's more -- do we even need an address field in our browser? Isn't Google really becoming the browser?