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Google Zeitgeist 2010

In January, Google published its annual report showing which items are most searched for on a global and country-by-country basis. Or, rather, not quite. Globally and for the US, it shows those that are the fastest rising searches, year on year, minus any porn-related requests.

The fastest rising queries are not absolute numbers, but reveal the search terms that spike the most from one year to the next; absolute numbers reveal the most popular search terms tend to be very similar by market, with Facebook, Youtube, eBay and Google proving to be the usual suspects.

Their methodology provides a useful snapshot of our online interests. A spokesman for Google said: “Zeitgeist means the ‘spirit of the times’ and we try to capture this spirit by exploring the year’s new and exciting search terms. Searches for adult keywords are pretty constant and, although unquestionably popular, we don’t think they define the zeitgeist for any one year.”

People are always looking for new things on Google; about 20% of queries are new each day. The spokesman said: “We have gathered the most popular and fastest rising queries from the year to capture the joys, sorrows and curiosity that many of us felt, showing the spirit of 2010.”

At www.google.com/zeitgeist they have interactive data visualisations for the top queries and events from around the world, so that we can compare the popularity of the Olympics with the World Cup and interact with, and explore, the search data. There is also a 2010 in review video.

The more you play with the data, the more fun the report becomes and close analysis reveals some interesting trends about our times and interests.

So who were the winners and losers of 2010 and why? The top five global events were: the World Cup in South Africa, the Winter Olympics in Canada, the earthquake in Haiti, the Mexican oil spill and the Icelandic volcano ash cloud.

Even the Americans seemed to embrace the World Cup; it was the fourth fastest rising search, after the iPad, Chatroulette and the iPhone 4. Within the specific World Cup sector for the US, Americans showed they had entered into the spirit of the event, with Paul the psychic octopus, pipping vuvuzelas to the top of the charts.

On a global basis, the fastest rising search request was Chatroulette, the Russian based website that connects strangers for video chat and displays of exhibitionism. Apple’s iPad came in second, followed by teen pop sensation, Justin Bieber. Nicki Minaj, the R&B singer-songwriter, in fourth position, produces rather more credible music and looks set to be huge in 2011. Friv, for the uninitiated, is a website where people can play online games and Myxer has over 28 million users who can download films, music and games for mobile phones. Gamezer is the place to go for multiplayer online games.

Katy Perry is an American singer, whose fame levels increased exponentially, after a whirlwind romance and marriage to British comic Lothario, Russell Brand.

Global: fastest rising

1 chatroulette
2 iPad
3 justin bieber
4 nicki minaj
5 friv
6 myxer
7 katy perry
8 twitter
9 gamezer
10 facebook

Products new in 2010, obviously tend to be the highest climbers and conversely, it is interesting to note the fastest falling searches, which had their time in 2009. Swine Flu, which took the world by storm in 2009, was the fastest falling search, followed by WaMu, short for the Washington Mutual Bank, which became America’s largest bank failure.

New Moon, in third place, a film based on Stephanie Meyer’s novel, Twilight, shows how popular vampires were in 2009, also falling was the BitTorrent search engine, Mininova. Music fans may be pleased to note that Susan Boyle, the middle-aged singing surprise from Scotland, appears fifth in the fastest falling list. Slumdog Millionaire, 2009’s Oscar winning film, naturally would not maintain its popularity.

Circuit City, an American electronics retailer, went bust in 2009, so was of limited interest in 2010. Ditto National City Bank. Michael Jackson died in 2009, a massive global story, obviously tailing off a year later.

Global: fastest falling

1 swine flu
2 wamu
3 new moon
4 mininova
5 susan boyle
6 slumdog millionaire
7 circuit city
8 myspace layouts
9 michael jackson
10 national city bank

Bieber leads the Entertainment searches, followed by Shakira, and Eminem. Lady Gaga and Kesha had to settle for the sixth and the seventh spot on the list, as internet-based entertainment services such as Netflix and YouTube videos managed to outdo them.

Topping the entertainment searches, is Justin Bieber, who struck it big in 2010, followed by resurfacing singers, Eminem and Shakira. Three new performers to hit the airways hard, were Lady Gaga, Kesha and Nicki Minaj.

Fastest rising in entertainment

1 justin bieber
2 shakira
3 eminem
4 netflix
5 youtube videos
6 lady gaga
7 kesha
8 nicki minaj
9 grooveshark
10 transformers 3

The ubiquitous Justin Bieber gained the top spot on the fastest rising people list, followed by Katy Perry, actress Selena Gomez and reality star, Kim Kardashian. All top ten rising people are from the world of entertainment.

2010’s Zeitgeist is interactive, allowing users to gauge search trends across the globe and by market. Users can see how a global event fared by market and along a timeline. The Zeitgeist has been going since 2001 and 2010’s has a video clip, summarizing the year, ending with the phrase, “Search On”.

The regional variations make for fascinating insight and we can compare what has grabbed various nations’ attention.

UK

1 chatroulette
2 formspring
3 hotmail sign in
4 ipad
5 justin bieber
6 world cup
7 fb
8 santander
9 youtube
10 metcheck

Formspring is a website, set up in November 2009, on which people can post a profile and others can ask questions or write comments. It has been accused of facilitating bullying and in March 2010 a hoax article claimed it was planning to reveal personal details about its users, which accounts for its position at number two in the UK list.

Another website in the UK’s top ten is Metcheck, which provides weather reports and attracts around 770,000 page views per day. Stories about Metcheck’s founder being in prison, undoubtedly helped it find its way into the top 10.

Italy

1 chatroulette
2 sarah scazzi
3 stipendipa
4 waka waka
5 mondiali 2010
6 video mediaset
7 il fatto quotidiano
8 auto scout 24
9 megavideo
10 google traduttore

The Italians seem less interested in Justin Bieber and an Italian tragedy means Sarah Scazzi appears at number two. 3.5 million people saw the mother of 15-year-old Sarah, being told live on television, that her daughter had been murdered. Her brother-in-law later confessed to the murder.

Stipendipa is the search term used to find the published salary details of public servants and is suitable for this new era of transparency. For those not in the know, Waka Waka was actually the FIFA official World Cup anthem, written by Shakira; sample lyrics:

Today’s your day

I feel it

You paved the way

Believe it.

If you get down

Get up oh oh

When you get down

Get up eh eh

Tsamina mina eh eh

Waka waka eh eh.

Italians seem keen on their home-grown versions of Youtube; Video Mediaset and Megavideo being two such examples. Next year expect Bunga Bunga to replace Waka Waka at or near the top.

Spain

1 farmerama
2 gmail correo electronico
3 hotmail iniciar secion
4 marca.es
5 twitter
6 la gaceta
7 antena 3 series
8 club penguin
9 google chrome
10 telefonica.net correo

The fastest rising search term in Spain was Farmerama, which is a farming simulator, with 17 million users in 30 languages and whose server is in Spain.

The Spanish seem keen on their media, with Marca.es (a national sports newspaper), La Gaceta and the TV guide, Antena 3, all in top ten. Club Penguin is a popular Disney online game (12 million users), whose Spanish language version was launched in June, 2009.

France

1 chatroulette
2 grepolis
3 portailorange
4 justin bieber
5 facebook
6 gmail message
7 hotmail sign in
8 haiti
9 deezer.fr
10 pole emploi

In France, Chatroulette is the winner, followed by Grepolis, an online game set in ancient Greece. Portailorange became popular after Orange won the football rights for mobile phones in France. The French job centre was renamed Pole Emploi in 2009 and became a popular search when people were unable to get in contact with their unemployment agency.

Germany

1 wm 2010
2 chatroulette
3 ipad
4 dsds 2010
5 immobilienscout 24
6 iphone 4
7 facebook
8 zalando
9 google street view
10 studi vz

Not surprising for soccer-mad Germany, the World Cup (Weltmeisterschaft) comes out on top, in fourth place is dsds 2010, which is the talent show, Deutschland sucht den Superstar. Zalando is a shoe retailer, founded in 2009 and which received its third phase of funding in August 2010. Studi VZ is a social network platform for students.

Poland

1 farmerama
2 komixxy
3 grepolis
4 wolnifarmerzy
5 vod
6 dieta dukana
7 justin bieber
8 football team
9 majka
10 facebook

As in Spain, Farmerama proved to be popular in Poland, as did Komixxy, a site publishing comic strips and cartoons, which attracts over 200,000 visitors a day. The country life obviously appeals to the Poles, Wolni Farmerzy is another online farming game; but they are also getting health conscious; Dieta Dukana is Poland’s most popular diet, which they presumably follow when watching the television soap, Majka.

It seems that the Google Zeitgeist can give us an accurate reflection of people’s interests and concerns. The internet is used extensively for social media and gaming, is useful for finding out about the latest technology and pop stars, as well as following the football when at work. People are understandably concerned by the economy and their job prospects, but prefer to use the internet as a form of escapism.

In order for any aspirational stars to become the fastest risers in 2011, the top tips would appear to be; get married to someone famous, go to prison or die.

Nigel Phillips

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