Are We Witnessing the Trivialization or Democratization of the Web?

Google Search from 2004 Trends

The Google Insights For Search tool provides one method for tracking changes to our culture and priorities. The graph above (click for a larger version) shows the change in volume of global searches for six different categories of query, from 2004 to 2010. Changes are relative to the search volume for each category in 2004, i.e. each category starts at 0% change on the left.

The last six years have seen a noticeable increase in searches for Shopping, Beauty and Entertainment – all rather selfish topics. Conversely, Science, Society and Arts – some might say the more intellectual or cultural subjects – have seen a noticeable drop over the same time period.

To draw any specific conclusions from such generic data would be foolish. However, a pessimist might suggest that this highlights a dumbing-down of society, where we increasingly turn to commercialism and celebrities to fill our time. An optimist might suggest that this data shows how the web has successfully evolved from a limited academic tool in the richest countries to a widespread media that a broad range of people rely on.

The only hard conclusion I’m taking from this is: now’s the time to invest in online beauty companies.