The year of curiosity: Google’s 2012 Zeitgeist

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You know the year is approaching its final leg when Google releases its Zeitgeist (meaning “the spirit of the times”). Just as every year before it, the Zeitgeist is a look back at what was popular in search over the past year. The 2012 release is Google’s 12th.

“This year, we’re launching the 12th annual Google Year-End Zeitgeist on google.com/zeitgeist. Our site showcases over 800 top-ten lists across pop culture, sports, music, politics, news, and more. It’s global, spanning over 50 countries. You can check out global search trends, compare terms using interactive data visualizations, and watch the annual Zeitgeist video,” says the search giant.

This has been quite the year for us as a society. We quested for undiscovered particles, a man jumped from space and a curious little rover tweeted pictures from Mars.

All that said, it is interesting but not surprising that Gangnam Style was really popular in terms of search. It was only beaten to the top spot by the death of singer Whitney Houston. The much-anticipated iPad 3 and Diablo 3 also feature in the top five searches for 2012, something that will tickle every geek’s fancy.

Here are the top 10 searches of 2012:

  1. Whitney Houston
  2. Gangnam Style
  3. Hurricane Sandy
  4. iPad 3
  5. Diablo 3
  6. Kate Middleton
  7. Olympics 2012
  8. Amanda Todd
  9. Michael Clarke Duncan
  10. BBB12

What’s quite cool this year is instead of just providing a nice video and list of searches, Google has also created an interactive map that allows people to explore the various events that defined 2012. The controversial trial of Russian feminist band, Pussy Riot, the Syrian civil war and the continued search for the last remaining undiscovered particle, the Higgs Boson, are all presented in a simple search format.

In order to determine the most popular terms in search this year, the company says it created “lists and data visualizations using a combination of tools that provide insight into global, regional, past and present search trends in aggregate”.

“Much of the data was informed by Google Trends, a publicly available tool that displays relative search volume across geographies, time periods and queries. We also used internal tools that allow us to do some more complex analysis, such as combining country data from across the European Union. We’ve also filtered out spam, irrelevant queries and repeated queries so our lists can best reflect the ‘spirit of the times’,” says Google.

When looking at different emerging market regions, the search queries in places like South Africa echo global trends with Whitney Houston, Hurricane Sandy and Gangnam Style claiming three of the top 10 spots. China’s top searches meanwhile featured the iPad 3 and Gangnam style, Russia featured the Olympics, India echoed fewer of the global trends while BBB12 (Big Brother Brazil 12) was seriously big in Brazil.

Watch the video below.

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