TORONTO - Who would think of arguing that Justin Bieber had an off year in 2012?
Well, according to Google's annual exploration of web search data, the Canadian pop star was taken down a peg this past year.
"Justin Bieber's kind of taking some licks, at least in terms of how he ranks in Google searches this year," says Google Canada spokesman Aaron Brindle.
He wasn't eligible for the year's Top 10 list of Canadian "trending" searches — representing newer queries that have broken out for the first time — but surprisingly, he wasn't named Google's biggest music-related search of the year.
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English-Irish boy band One Direction had more searches than Bieber, who did finish second in the category.
"He still has tons and tons of searches, but it's interesting, this is kind of a hard year for Justin Bieber because he was outpaced by One Direction and then we also saw ... 'Gangnam Style' (by PSY) passed Justin Bieber's ('Baby') as the most watched video of all time last month."
"Gangnam Style" was No. 5 on Google Canada's list of top trending searches of 2012, behind the social media site Pinterest, hurricane Sandy, the Olympics and the video game "Diablo 3." "Gangnam Style" outranked the book-turned-film "Hunger Games," SOPA (an acronym for the Stop Online Piracy Act), the Quebec reality show "Star Academie," head of the Lord's Resistance Army Joseph Kony, and Zerg Rush, a search term that launches a secret video game at Google.com.
Bieber was also shut out at Yahoo! Canada, which said its top searches of the year were Kate Middleton, iPhone 5, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, "Fifty Shades of Grey," Higgs boson, hurricane Sandy, Jessica Simpson, Jessica Pare, Scientology and Miss Universe Canada Jenna Talackova.
But Bieber did top the Bing.ca charts, followed by Miley Cyrus, Kim Kardashian, Selena Gomez, Kate Middleton, Jennifer Aniston, Taylor Swift, Kristen Stewart, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga.
A new category Google Canada tracked this year was "how to" searches and Canadians most wanted to learn "how to rock." Second was how to shuffle, followed by kiss, YouTube, twerk, wakeboard, snorkel, live and embroider.
Google also ranked searches that started with "what is." The top result was "what is love," followed by SOPA, gluten, yolo (which stands for you only live once), Instagram, Scientology, Tumblr, Pinterest, dubstep and autism.
And what is Canada's favourite sports team, according to Google searches? Baseball's Toronto Blue Jays.
Blame the ongoing NHL lockout, combined with the Jays' recent flurry of acquisitions, for hockey's unexpected fall out of the top spot. The Toronto Maple Leafs were second on the list, followed by the Vancouver Canucks, Montreal Canadiens, Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Raptors and Montreal Impact.
"Sometimes this can be distilled down to a popularity contest, but sometimes it's also just where there's actual news and I think the Blue Jays' bunch of really interesting trades (helped)," said Brindle.
"The NHL in general has taken a huge hit on Google in terms of hockey-related searches."