A man falling from space & robots on other planets: Google’s global Zeitgeist reveals what we searched for in 2012

December 12, 2012


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A man falling from space (and robots on other planets), bad weather, London 2012, and Gangnam Style – these were the topics that we searched for in 2012, according to Google’s list of the most popular global searches of 2012.

Irish group Kodaline, one of the most popular search terms in Ireland in 2012, provide the music to Google’s year-end review video.

The international list of the fastest rising and most used search terms comes a day after Google released its national lists of most used search terms.

The 2012 Google Zeitgeist list is broken down into 11 categories, each containing the fastest rising search terms used in 2012.  The 11 categories are; Searches, Images, Athletes, Events, People, Feature Films, TV Shows, Performing Artists, Consumer Electronics, Airlines (for some reason), and Google+ Hashtags.

Let’s have a look at some of them


This is Google’s list of the fastest rising search terms of 2012 across all the company’s search services.  People dominate the list of search terms in 2012: the shock deaths of Whitney Houston and Michael Clarke Duncan make the list as the 1st and 9th fastest rising search terms. This continues a trend from previous years, where users turned to Google to discover if reports of celebrity deaths are true.  In 2011 the deaths of Ryan Dunn and Steve Jobs were some of the most conducted searches.  The tragic death of teenager Amanda Todd also makes the list.

British royal Kate Middleton was the 6th fastest rising search term in 2012; she also made the same lists in Google’s national Zeitgeist for Ireland and the UK.

The unstoppable meme that is Gangnam Style (replacing Rebecca Black from 2011, remember her?) was the 2nd fastest rising searched for term, beating Hurricane Sandy, which battered the US in September.  The only technologies to make the list this year are the iPad 3 and game Diablo 3, at 4th and 5th position.  This is good news for Apple, whose iPad 2 came in 10th place last year; although in 2011 the iPhone 5 was one of the most searched for terms but it doesn’t make the 2012 list in spite of it actually being released this year.

  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


As they have been doing in the courts throughout the year Apple, Samsung and Android have battled to become the most searched for technology terms of the year.  Apple’s iPads (3, 4, and Mini) were some of the most popular technology terms of the year.  Interestingly, the iPhone 5 didn’t make the list.  Samsung’s Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 make a strong showing too but can’t compete for searches against Apple.  Google will be happy that its Nexus 7 tablet was placed in a strong 4th for our attention in 2012.  Sony’s aging Playstation makes the list – which is impressive, considering its age- and what makes that even more impressive is that it beat more modern tech, including Microsoft’s Surface tablet, Amazon’s Kindle Fire, and Nokia’s Lumia 920.  The Playstation was the only console to make the list, although Nintendo’s Wii U probably came too late to make a serious impression on the rankings.

  1. iPad 3
  2. Samsung Galaxy S3
  3. iPad Mini
  4. Nexus 7
  5. Galaxy Note 2
  6. Play Station
  7. iPad 4
  8. Microsoft Surface
  9. Kindle Fire
  10. Nokia Lumia 920


Speaking of Sony, the company will be pleased that its feature film division’s latest James Bond, Skyfall, was the second most searched for film of the year.  Geek film of the year, The Avengers, broke dozens of records on its release but it didn’t manage to get to the top spot on the film list. While the top four films on the list were all record breakers one film, John Carter, which was described as the biggest flop in cinema history was also one of the most searched for movies this year.  Bollywood film, Ek Tha Tiger (which was partially filmed in Dublin, Ireland), is the only non-Hollywood production that makes the list

  1. The Hunger Games
  2. Skyfall
  3. Prometheus
  4. The Avengers
  5. Magic Mike
  6. John Carter
  7. Ek Tha Tiger
  8. Paranormal Activity 4
  9. Taken 2
  10. Dark Shadows

News Events

Kate Middleton was clearly a popular person in 2012, making several lists in Google Zeitgeist.  The Duchess of Cambridge is only one of two UK search terms to make the list; the other being the London 2012 Olympics, which comes in at number 3.

Other than those searches, events in the US dominate the News Events list. Hurricane Sandy was the most popular search term of the year; followed by SOPA, the US legislation that would have given legal authorities in the country more control to remove content online.  The Presidential debates between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, the Penn State scandal, and the shooting of Trayvon Martin were also popular searches.

Some events in Europe make the list, including the crash of the Costa Concordia in the waters off Italy, the amazing jump by Felix Baumgartner from the edge of space, and the events surrounding the arrest of Russian band Pussy Riot.

  1. Hurricane Sandy
  2. Kate Middleton Pictures Released
  3. Olympics 2012
  4. SOPA Debate
  5. Costa Concordia crash
  6. Presidential Debate
  7. Stratosphere Jump
  8. Penn State Scandal
  9. Trayvon Martin shooting
  10. Pussy Riots

Google+ hashtags

A new addition to this year’s list is Google’s  run down of the most used hashtags on Google+, which is dominated by politics, technology, and sports.  Even though it was all over by January #SOPA was the most used hashtag on the site.  Coming late in the year Hurricane Sandy was responsible for the hashtag #sandy, which rose to third place on the list.  NASA can be proud that their social media skills and striking images from the Red Planet helped their Curiosity Rover to become the fifth most discussed hashtag topic on the social network in 2012. The world of politics was responsible for the hashtags #Debate and #Eastwooding (the act of talking to an empty chair, named in honor of Clint Eastwood), which made the list at numbers 8 and 10 respectively.

Most Google+ hashtags are related to specific events (SOPA, Sandy, IO12, Curiosity, Olympics, SXSW, Debate, Eastwooding)  but only two are what can be described as generic hashtags (#Awesome and #BlastFromThePast).  This gives a strong indication that the Google+ community is largely topic driven and turn to the site for specific occasions rather than just on a casual basis, as users do on Twitter.

You can see the full list of Google search terms of 2012, as well as country specific results, on the Google Zeitgeist 2012 site.


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Ajit Jain

Ajit Jain is marketing and sales head at Octal Info Solution, a leading iPhone app development company and offering platform to hire Android app developers for your own app development project. He is available to connect on Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


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