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Remembering when Janet Jackson’s boob broke the internet

February 5, 2015

Justin Timberlake was in an odd place eleven years ago. Justifed was by all accounts a hit, but he hadn’t yet fully distanced himself from his poodle-haired days with NSYNC.

And then, on February 1st, he pulled Janet Jackson’s boob out at the Super Bowl.

The incident was a game changer, no pun intended.

Forgetting for a minute that it happened during one of the greatest Super Bowls of all time—everyone else has—the half second that the world saw Janet Jackson’s jewelry adorned nipple immediately caused a chain of overreaction. It led to the now standard five second delay on live broadcasts; it coined the term wardrobe malfunction; it led to millions in fines, hundreds of hours in court cases and was considered a politicking point for a then-faltering George W. Bush.

Also, it was hilarious.

For the internet, its impact is even more monumental. YouTube creator Jawed Karim says the event inspired him to create his now-ubiquitous streaming site and, just four days after Nipplegate™ it had already become the most searched topic in the history of the Internet.

On February 5th, 2004, Lycos’s Aaron Schatz wrote that Janet Jackson was searched for 50 times more frequently than Super Bowl commercials, which usually dominated next day queries.

“She also received 275 times as many searches as the streaker who ran on the field before the second half,” he wrote, “and 350 times as many searches as Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady.”

The BBC corroborated; Janet Jackson’s mammary was more searched than September 11; it was searched for 60 times as often as the Paris Hilton sex tape.

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