Facebook, Twitter unveil top trending topics of 2011

Status updates are at the very heart of the Facebook experience. They’re how its 800-million strong community shares thoughts, emotions and ideas. Now the world’s largest social network has taken those updates and collated them into a list of top trending topics for 2011.

According to an official blog post, Facebook calls the method it’s used to collate the topics “Memology”. It claims to take “the pulse of this global community by comparing this year’s status updates to last year’s, unearthing the most popular topics and cultural trends — or memes — emerging on Facebook”.

Topping Facebook’s chart is the death of Osama Bin Laden, following a raid on his Pakistan compound in May.

Two other deaths, Steve Jobs and Amy Winehouse, also made it onto the list at five and seven respectively. Jobs’ death was also the biggest event in internet history.

The largest sporting event, meanwhile, was the Green Bay Packers’ February win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Superbowl. This might seem to buck any preconceptions that American Football is only of interest to…well, Americans.

Facebook adds that “Packers fans were particularly active around each post-season match (represented by the spikes on the chart), culminating in their victory on February 6 [sic].”

The topics are largely limited to events that occurred in the Western hemisphere. The two exceptions — Bin Laden’s death and the start of military operations in Libya — both involved western interests.

By way of comparison, Twitter’s recently released list of 2011’s top hashtags reflects a much more global mix.

Topping the list is #egypt, which dominated headlines in the midst of uprisings which saw the decades-old regime of Hosni Muburak come to an end. Egyptian protestors were also behind the hashtag rounding off Twitter’s list. Following the detention of online activist Wael Ghonim #Jan25 became a rallying point for those supporting his ideals.

While Hurricane Irene was the top trending natural disaster on Facebook, a devastating earthquake and tsunami saw #japan become the fifth hottest trending topic on Twitter.

It wasn’t all seriousness on Twitter. Charlie Sheen’s very public meltdown saw #tigerblood take up second place on Twitter’s hashtag list.

As was the case on Facebook, #superbowl appears on the list, again suggesting that one of the largest days in American sports is fast becoming one of the largest days in world sports.
Other hashtags, such as #threewordstoliveby, and #idontunderstandwhy became memes in their own right. The two took up numbers three and four on the list respectively.

2011 was a period of incredible growth for both sites, with Facebook passing the 800-million user mark and Twitter going past 200-million (100-million of whom are active on a daily basis).



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