They weren't necessarily the best, just the most popular. You saw our least popular posts before getting trashed on New Year's Eve. Before you stop caring, here are the 20 most clicked on posts of 2009.

Proving that the web is primarily a visual medium, nearly every one of these posts is about a photo or a video, either dug up by Gawker or reposted from somewhere else. Also big on the net: Facebook and Google, two topics that are the most likely to be picked up on traffic-driving sites like Digg, Twitter and Facebook. Also: sex and death does well on the net. And while Gawker's audience is still mainly in the U.S., exclusives that appealed globally also did well.

Here's the top 20:

The Most Popular Gawker Posts of 2009S

1. Dane's Anatomy: McSteamy, His Wife and a Fallen Beauty Queen's Naked Threesome — 3,439,373 views
A guy famous for playing a hunky doctor on TV, his wife who's famous for those Noxzema commercials years ago, and a woman famous for little outside of the Hollywood Vice Squad took off their clothes, passed around a video camera, babbled a lot and jumped in a tub. Irresistable! This got us sued, but our lawyers seem to be doing well in the case.

The Most Popular Gawker Posts of 2009

2. Spain's Goth First Daughters Embarrass, Embarrassed By Dad — 582,652 views
Random, I know. The U.S. State Department uploaded a picture of Barack and Michelle Obama posing with the first family of Spain, including their two going-through-a-goth-stage daughters. Since Spanish laws allowed Prime Minister Zapatero to bar media outlets there from publishing the photo, that nation depended on Gawker to see this very important historical document. Gracias.

The Most Popular Gawker Posts of 2009

3. Exclusive: I Helped Richard Heene Plan a Balloon Hoax — 504,699 views
Two desperate to be famous people launched a modified weather balloon and then said their son was on it. But he wasn't and everyone thought it was a hoax. A nation was rapt! And outraged! While the cable channels spent an entire weekend in October filling their airwaves with speculation, we got in touch with Robert Thomas who, in exchange for a fee, provided the first hard evidence that Richard Heene had been contemplating a scheme.

The Most Popular Gawker Posts of 2009

4. Katie Couric's Forbidden Dance of Gin — 438,309 views
These funny pictures of Katie Couric dancing silly came in through the transom. But what really made them amazing was when John Cook was able to piece together that they were from the afterparty celebrating her debut as anchor of the CBS Evening news in 2006. Then they spread everywhere on the internet.

The Most Popular Gawker Posts of 2009

5. Facebook CEO's Private Photos Exposed by the New 'Open' Facebook — 327,593 views
What better way for Ryan Tate to illustrate how Facebook wants to turn its 300+ million users into oversharers than combing through the CEO Mark Zuckerber's photos for awkward, kind of embarassing pictures? The photos may not have been very scandalous, but the fact that Zuckerberg turned them back to private the next day showed what a scandal his new privacy settings are. Facebook was the gift that kept giving to Gawker this year.

The Most Popular Gawker Posts of 2009

6. Joaquin Phoenix's Letterman Disaster — 303,008 views
Ah, early 2009. Remember when Joaquin Phoenix's maybe druggy, maybe performance art appearance on the Late Show had everyone talking. Ryan's quick on the draw post about the bizarre interview shortly before the talk show aired was well-done and received a bunch of traffic for it. And for the record, Gawker's official position on the Phoenix fake-or-drugs debate is that it's both.

The Most Popular Gawker Posts of 2009

7. Our Embassy in Afghanistan Is Guarded by Sexually Confused Frat Boys — 300,593 views
A group called Project on Government Oversight conducted a big investigation into the conduct of private contractors providing security to the U.S. embassy in Kabul and then turned all of their info over to any media outlet that wanted it. Amazingly, no media outlet wanted to publish the pictures of drunk guys eating potato chips out of each other's asses until John asked POGO for the photos and promptly posted them. The photos pushed the story out of the goo-goo blogging circles and into mainstream outets, sparking a furor that ultimately cost the company, Armor Group, their $189 million contract.

The Most Popular Gawker Posts of 2009

8. Wife Swap Star Apologizes for Having Worst Husband in World — 278,755 views
Stephen Fowler is a venture capitalist who lives in San Francisco's yuppie enclave Noe Valley. He went on Wife Swap and looked like a horrible asshole. Owen Thomas recorded this fact. Also: using "worst X in the world" in a headline is a surprisingly effective way to drive page views.

The Most Popular Gawker Posts of 2009

9. A Few Hidden Details in the McSteamy Chat à Trois Video — 261,080 views
How popular was the McSteamy video? Brian Moylan's dissection of it was the year's ninth most popular post.

The Most Popular Gawker Posts of 2009

10. ShamWow Guy Beats Up Cannibal Hooker — 252,881 views
This story of an energetic TV pitchman's violent encounter and Hamilton Nolan's classic headline on this Smoking Gun find was hilarious. Until the rest of police photos of the aftermath emerged.

The Most Popular Gawker Posts of 2009

11. Facebook's Great Betrayal — 248,673 views
The second of Ryan's great Facebook series to make the list.

The Most Popular Gawker Posts of 2009

12. David Carradine Death Photo Rules Out Suicide — 241,752 views
Foster Kamer didn't post the photo of David Carradine — and explained why he didn't — but the internet's dark curiosity still came looking for it here. Or maybe people just wanted to read a description rather than go looking for the gruesome thing themselves.

The Most Popular Gawker Posts of 2009

13. The Leighton Meester Sex Tape You've All Been Waiting For — 234,010 views
This was probably a bigger tease, since it did not in fact contain any supposed Leighton Meester sex. It was instead our Gossip Roundup with a Cajun Boy's very effective headline.

The Most Popular Gawker Posts of 2009

14. Google Maps Loves Guns, Hates Bambi — 221,919 views
People love seeing all the crazy things that the Google Street View cars photograph including rednecks shopping for guns and roadkill.

The Most Popular Gawker Posts of 2009

15. Эй, вы можете прочитать запрещенную статью GQ про Путина здесь — 221,851 views
Or: "Hey, You Can Read the Banned GQ Story about Putin Here": GQ published a story by Scott Anderson going over the evidence that implicates Vladimir Putin as carrying out a series of apartment building bombings in 1999 as a way to drum up fear and win elective office. It wasn't entirely new, but Condé Nast lawyers decided to bury the story, writing in an email that it shouldn't be publicized in any way, the American GQ edition should be kept out of Russia, kept the story off its web site and vowed to never republish it in Russian. That came to light on a Friday. By Sunday, after some heroic contributions from Russian speaking readers, Gawker had a full translation of the story and it seems to have been widely read in Russia now. Thank you.

The Most Popular Gawker Posts of 2009

16. Google CEO: Secrets Are for Filthy People — 219,766 views
Internet privacy was a big story for Ryan even when it didn't involve Facebook. Here he focused on a quote by CEO Eric Schmidt in which he suggested that people who aren't perverts or terrorists really don't need privacy so why are you so concerned?

The Most Popular Gawker Posts of 2009

17. Travolta's Rumored Gay Lover Discovered Dead Son — 218,974 views
Owen's coverage of the death of Jett Travolta was controversial, to put it mildly. But given the number of secrets in Travolta's life — the Scientology, the gay rumors — it touched on, it was impossible not to speculate that the public explanation given by Travolta might not be the full story.

The Most Popular Gawker Posts of 2009

18. The Top 100 Videos of 2009 in Less Than 3 Minutes — 211,733 views
How could we forget? Matt Leary assembled a year's worth of goofy videos and boiled them down to a bite-size package for Gawker.TV.

The Most Popular Gawker Posts of 2009

19. Even Facebook Employees Hate the Redesign — 199,094 views
Before the bungled their privacy settings last month, Facebook pissed off its users with a redesign earlier in 2009. Owen heard that the redesign was sparking some internal grumblings at the social network and many people were interested.

The Most Popular Gawker Posts of 2009

20. Woman's Declaration That She's a 56-Year-Old Virgin Off by One Night — 192,820 views
A woman showed up on the wrong night to tell the Texas State Board of Education to keep sex out of classrooms (I think?) and admitted that she had never "technically" had sex. And internet hilarious was born.

The Most Popular Gawker Posts of 2009

21. Watch a Google Street View Car Hit a Bridge — 192,362 views
Hah.


And those were the 20 most popular Gawker posts of 2009. But if your favorite was left off, please feel free to leave it in comments.