A Year In Googling: The People, Events (and Diets) That Defined Our 2012 Web Conversation

What captured the world's attention this year? What news events had people buzzing loudest? Google shared some of its year-end search data with TIME ahead of its Wednesday morning public release.

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What captured the world’s attention this year? What news events had people buzzing loudest? Such questions would have been significantly more difficult to answer before the turn of the century. But today, with a constant collection of digital data now permeating our everyday lives, such queries aren’t just easier to answer; they’re elementary. What we searched the Internet for in 2012 is quantifiable, calculable and searchable, and Google has done just that yet again with its 2012 “Zeitgeist.” The company shared some of its year-end search data with TIME ahead of its Wednesday morning public release, saying:

Google’s 12th Annual Year-End Zeitgeist is an in-depth look at the stories, people, and topics that captured the world’s attention this year. From the most trending events and images, to the hottest gizmos and gadgets, to the topics and people that sparked interest, our Year-End Zeitgeist is a look back at the year through the lens of Google Search in over 50 countries around the world.

The numerous lists compiled by Google span a wide array subject areas, and have been presented as either “trending” searches or “most-searched” topics. “Most-searched” topics are rather self-explanatory — these are simply search terms that were used more than any other this year — while “trending” searches compare certain 2012 search terms against how the same terms performed a year prior.

(LIST: The Most Discussed Gadgets of 2012 (According to Google))

There are surprises to be found on just about every Zeitgeist list, from the most-searched people of 2012 to the most-Googled song lyrics, diets and gadgets. But the broadest list calculated by the company might be the “United States Trending Searches” list, which isolates the most widely-searched news events of the year (compared to what was searched in 2011). The results are not entirely what one would expect: They reflect the country’s widespread heartache when celebrities die too soon, our routine fascination with both the election and the Olympic games, our growing obsession with viral videos and our evolving concerns with the fallout of bullying.

You’ll find the U.S. Trending Searches list below (as well as highlights from the other lists we’ve published further down). Also be sure to come back at 12:30 p.m. EST to watch top TIME editors discuss the 2012 Google Zeitgeist; you’ll find the live Google Hangout embedded at the top of this page.

Top United States Trending Searches 2012:

  1. Whitney Houston
  2. Hurricane Sandy
  3. Election 2012
  4. Hunger Games
  5. Jeremy Lin
  6. Olympics 2012
  7. Amanda Todd
  8. Gangnam Style
  9. Michael Clarke Duncan
  10. Kony 2012

In addition to U.S. trending searches, TIME was provided with data for several other annual search lists. Below you will find the top items from those lists (and links to the full rankings, where applicable):

Additional coverage:

MORE: Google Search’s New Look Leaves Room for Answers

1 comments
WouterterKeurs
WouterterKeurs

The Spice Girls didn't feature in the opening ceremony, but in the closing ceremony. (Why do I know that?)