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Eminem, Britney and Paris Reign Online

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Britney Spears, Eminem and — as you could’ve guessed — Paris Hilton were among the most sought-after celebrities on the Internet this year, according to new statistics by Yahoo!, Lycos and America Online.

It was a roller coaster ride for Britney: For several weeks, said Lycos spokesman Aaron Schatz, the pop princess, 22, actually fell off that search site’s Top 10 list. But that all changed after her lip lock with Madonna at September’s MTV Video Music Awards.

When the dust settled, she was Lycos’s No. 2 search for 2003, trailing behind the song-swapping service Kazaa, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

At Yahoo! Spears was No. 6 overall, behind only Eminem. The site’s biggest percentage gain this year was for Paris Hilton — especially in the wake of her pirated online sex tape. Yahoo! says searches for Hilton shot up a staggering 212,000 percent.

At AOL (which, like PEOPLE, is part of Time Warner), Rush Limbaugh, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jackson were hot, though the most popular topic online was the war in Iraq. That was followed by the Democratic party primaries, the California recall election starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and the beleaguered “Reagans” miniseries.

Reality TV also was popular on AOL message boards, as evidenced by searches for “American Idol,” followed by “Survivor,” “Paradise Hotel” and “Big Brother.” The most-sought-after TV shows on Lycos were “Idol,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “The Simpsons” and “Survivor.”

Meanwhile, Lycos is predicting that, based on Web searches, Mel Gibson’s controversial “The Passion of the Christ,” Brad Pitt’s epic “Troy” and Halle Berry’s comic-book turn in “Catwoman” will all be hits next year.

Happy New Year — and happy searching.