Google Zeitgeist documents trending searches for 2012 as well as the most popular searches. "Trending" means search queries that had the most traffic over a sustained period in 2012 compared to the year before. "Most popular" is simply a measure of search query volume in 2012.
The top trending searches overall in the U.S. reflected current events and popular culture. The top five were: Whitney Houston, who died unexpectedly; Hurricane Sandy, which inflicted significant damage along the Mid-Atlantic coast; Election 2012, because the presidency was at stake; Hunger Games, the hit film version of the book series; and Jeremy Lin, a rising basketball star.
The sixth through tenth top trending queries were: Olympics 2012, held in London; Amanda Todd, the bullied teen whose tragic video went viral; Gangnam Style, the South Korean dance hit; Michael Clark Duncan, a well-liked actor who died; and KONY 2012, a widely viewed video protesting Joseph Kony's use of child soldiers in Uganda.
The top trending queries for tech gadgets in the U.S. were mostly concerned with tablets. The top five were: iPad 3, iPad Mini, Samsung Galaxy S3, Kindle Fire and Nexus 7. And number six was Microsoft Surface.
Among U.S. searches for phones, Apple and Samsung dominated. The top five trending searches were: iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, Samsung Galaxy S3, Galaxy Note and Galaxy Note 2. But Microsoft, Nokia and RIM haven't been forgotten, despite being overshadowed by Apple, Google, and Samsung. Their products found places in the top 10: Blackberry Bold and Blackberry Curve ranked sixth and seventh while the Nokia Lumia 900 and Windows 8 Phone ranked eighth and ninth.
But Google's 2012 Zeitgeist is global rather than national in scope, as its moving video recap of the year demonstrates. The company's exhortation to "never stop searching" makes its business into a metaphor for how one should live, even as it suggests the kind of lifelong customer relationship that antitrust authorities just can't sunder.
Google first released its Zeitgeist list in December 2001. Back then, the top 10 fastest-rising ("trending" had not yet become a trendy term) searches were: Nostradamus, CNN, World Trade Center, Harry Potter, Anthrax, Windows XP, Osama bin Laden, Audiogalaxy, Taliban and Loft Story.