Facebook Is Wikipedia’s Most Popular Article Of 2012: Hot Topic Or Confused Searchers?

What was the most viewed article on Wikipedia this year? The one about Facebook. Is Facebook really that popular of a Wikipedia topic? Perhaps, but more likely, confused searchers are getting to the Wikipedia page rather than Facebook itself.

Yesterday on Toolserver.org, a service of Wikipedia Germany, lists of  the Top 100 most viewed articles for 2012 were released. The data mining was done by Johan Gunnarsson, a computer science student in Sweden. Rankings for 35 different Wikipedias (by language) are available. You can find all of the lists here.

Here’s a look at the Top 10 most viewed articles on the English Wikipedia during 2012.

1. Facebook 32,647,942 Views

2. Wiki 29,613,759 Views

3. Deaths in 2012 25,418,587 Views

4. One Direction 22,351,637 Views

5. The Avengers (2012 film) 22,268,644 Views

6. Fifty Shades of Grey 21,779,423 Views

7. 2012 phenomenon 20,619,920 Views

8. The Dark Knight Rises 18,882,885 Views

9. Google 18,508,719 Views

10. The Hunger Games 18,431,626

The 100th most viewed article “Stephen Hawking” with 7,177,539 views.

Aside from the popular culture of the day (One Direction, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hunger Games, etc.) it’s likely that the two most viewed articles included many visits from confused users who for one or more of many reasons landed on the page.


In several of the articles I’ve seen since these lists were released the most likely answer is confused users. I concur.

On AllThingsD, Liz Gannes gets input from Jay Walsh, a Wikimedia spokesperson:

First, that users are typing Facebook into an integrated search engine in their browsers intending to go to the site and end up on Wikipedia (which could be a self-reinforcing habit based on search history).

And second, as Walsh put it, “It’s quite possible that these numbers confirm general, high-level interest and curiosity about top Web properties — their history, policies, background, etc.”

There is tendency for those of us who live and breathe search and information retrieval 24x7x365 to think of these people as simply confused, lost, “out of it”, or as seen in a headline from a news service provided by a major search provider, “dummies”.

A couple of weeks ago Experian announced that the most popular search term of 2012 was Facebook. Some of the other most popular search terms for the past two years include:

  • YouTube
  • Craigslist
  • eBay
  • Yahoo

While some or even a lot these “navigational” searches are likely from people who don’t have the page bookmarked (if they even know that you can bookmark) or want enter those same letters into the navigational bar directly I think we’re also seeing some of the same confused users we’re pointing out at Wikipedia.

Nothing New

Being able to identify what are most likely sizable amounts of confused and uneducated users in year-end rankings is nothing new.

For example, seven years ago I wrote that the most popular search terms for 2005 on Dogpile included Google, Yahoo and eBay. What made this even more interesting and illustrated confusion about how search works is that Dogpile included results from Google and Yahoo at that time.

Taking a look back at the most viewed articles on Wikipedia during 2008 and 2009 we also see some of the same articles on this years list.

The most viewed Wikipedia article on the 2008 and 2009 lists was “Wiki”. This year, it’s number two.

  • Facebook was the 5th most viewed article in 2008 and 10th in 2009
  • YouTube was the 2nd most viewed article in 2008, 5th in 2009, and 12th this year.
  • Google was the 21st most viewed article in 2008, did not appear on the list in 2009, and 9th this year.

The bottom line is that what we’re seeing in 2012 is far from new. In fact, it’s a very old issue and confused users should be a concern.

The entire industry and several related professions needs to do more to develop a more web and digitally literate Internet users. It’s not possible to reach everyone but that doesn’t mean we can’t reach some, even a few.

It’s not that nothing is being by the industry along with school, library, and government projects but rather more needs to be done by all of us.

Just taking a few minutes to share a few pointers with your nieces, uncle, or neighbor can make a difference. Everyone is a searcher these days or at least they think they are. Saving people time, effort, and aggravation can turn you into a hero.

By the way, it’s not only the most basic browser, navigation, and search but also, perhaps most important, having some skills to judge the quality (currency, accuracy, source, etc.) of the info people find on the web.

So, next time you come across statistics that show what are most likely confused users try to keep your head shaking and scratching to a minimum and ask yourself how can you contribute to make these people educated to how the web and web tools work.

Related Topics: Channel: Strategy | Search Engines: Wikipedia | Stats: Popularity | Top News


About The Author: is a librarian, author, and an online information analyst based in suburban Washington, DC. He is the co-founder and co-editor of INFOdocket and FullTextReports.com and prior to that was founder/editor of ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. He has worked for Blekko, Ask.com, and at Search Engine Watch where he was news editor. In 2001, Price was the co-author (with Chris Sherman) of the best-selling book The Invisible Web.

Connect with the author via: Email


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  • http://ftc.gov/ MonopolizedSearch

    I would think that most users visiting Wikipedia’s Facebook page are indeed confused. Google has a tendency to rank Wikipedia rather well, and I suspect Google is the one sending most of the visitors to Wikipedia’s Facebook page as it is currently ranked number 2. Many suspect Google gives Wikipedia such high ranks because Wikipedia is not commercialized, which makes Google’s paid ads more appealing to users for the average search query. For example, searching for a “vacuum” in Google we find Wikipedia ranked number one. Does Google really think we are that foolish to need a definition/history of the vacuum at the top spot or is something else going on here?

  • http://healthbenefitsoff.com/ Manish gupta

    Thanks for the nice information. Every one like it. I also think most of user opened wikipedia’s facebook page by confusion due to the listing of wikipedia’s content pages on the top most by google. So the page views got higher.

  • New iPhone Cover

    facebook are you kidding me yup i totally agree with you on confuse visitor though they seem pretty much confused to me searching for wiki on facebook.


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  • treepodia

    Lots of confusion there. Also “wiki” is second”. Whoa, meta search is meta.

  • http://huntall.com/ HuntAll
  • http://www.facebook.com/nita.sharma.7737 Anindita Basra

    being dispatched at particular times of a day, achieve this with hootsuite.com
    and keep fans busy.

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