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In MP3: The Definitive Guide by Scot Hacker, published by O'Reilly in 2000, the author claims:

In April of 1999, the term "MP3" surpassed "sex" as the most-searched-on term at some of the Internet's top search engines. (source)

Is this the case? Google Trends only goes back to 2004, but sex is consistently more popular a search term than MP3 in Google Trends.

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Yes, according to searchterms.com, which I believe is the source of the information.

In December 1998, sex was first and mp3 was second. In April 1999, mp3 was first and sex was second.

According to their methodology page:

We are often asked from where our list comes, usually by those wanting to verify the validity of the rankings. While we have to keep the source of the data confidential, we can tell you that it's from a major search engine, and also that each iteration of the list comes from a totally raw sampling of no less than a million searches, which is then massaged into a ranked list. Given the source and the sampling size, statistically the rankings should be accurate to most any of the major, general search engines.

In support of the accuracy of our list, in a Newsday article a top executive from a major search engine said "The terms on the site are fairly accurate, in my opinion," and further said he believes our list does indeed come from a top engine.

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    Google was not a "major search engine" in April 1999. (Google was founded in September 1998.) Possibly Yahoo! ??? Dec 14, 2022 at 10:37
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    @DavidHammen Dunno about that. Google took off very quickly due to how ridiculous the competitors were...
    – pipe
    Dec 14, 2022 at 13:00

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