There’s nothing like the approaching end of a year to trigger a collective need to compile lists and it seems the online world is keen to cajole itself on to the same bandwagon.

Both Yahoo and Ask have revealed their top searches of 2008 and among the predictable likes of Britney (maybe it’s just her vanity searches) Spears and Angelina Jolie there are a few indications that 2008 has been a landmark year for online technology.

Number three on the most searched for list is Barack Obama whose phenomenal ascent to power was helped along by an unprecedented online campaign.

With a little smart thinking, announcing his VP pick via text message instead of traditional media comes to mind, the campaign was able to amass millions of e-mail addresses, mobile numbers and Facebook friends.

Apart from the excellent bragging rights of having over three million Facebook friends, a fact that would finish any pub conversation, the campaign team were able to send regular updates to millions of people without using traditional and more expensive advertising methods.

Even more impressively, personalised maps were sent out to each subscriber with directions to their nearest polling station.

Another Web 2.0 darling, Twitter, also hit the mainstream this year.

The micro-messaging service has often been the first to break major news stories as people on the ground send short messages which are immediately available worldwide.

This was demonstrated during the recent Mumbai attacks when traditional news outlets often reported Twitter messages alongside reports from journalists whose stories often lagged behind the realtime information available online.

It looks as though the key lesson to be learned from 2008 is that people are getting more comfortable communicating online. From a business point of view this gives us smarter ways to contact a lot of potential consumers who can’t be reached through more traditional means.

At the moment, they’re mainly looking for Britney and Angelina but we can at least hope their tastes improve.

Ross Riley is technical director at Birmingham digital agency One Black Bear. Column supplied by PACE (Publicity Association of Central England)