Google, Facebook release year-end lists

December 13, 2012

Google and Facebook weighed in Wednesday on the string of year-end summations, with both companies releasing their lists of the top searches and trends of year.

Google also used its huge collection of data to show the year in search. Surprisingly, the top trending search of the year wasn’t for the U.S. elections or the London Olympics: it was for the late singer Whitney Houston.

Houston, who died in February at the age of 48, topped the trending lists for the United States and the world as fans mourned her passing.

The singer came in ahead of searches for Hurricane Sandy, the election, the “Hunger Game”s and basketball star Jeremy Lin. The Olympics, which led Twitter’s list of the year’s conversations, placed sixth in Google’s overall list of searches.

Google also broke down its data to examine the different ways people use its search engine. The top trending image searches, for example, were for boy band One Direction and “Funny Pictures,” presumably from people looking to inject some levity into their day. And it could be a sign of the tepid economy that “money” also made the image search list. Sadly, just looking at pictures of cash won’t help you pad your wallet.

The company also highlighted the search terms that puzzled people the most in 2012. In its “What is...?” list, Google shared that people most often finished the query with the word “SOPA,” a reference to the Stop Online Piracy Act. But people were also eager to know about Scientology, the viral KONY 2012 video and the carpe diem acronym “YOLO.”

Turning to politics, Google also released lists of the top politicians, election issues and political gaffes of the year.

Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan saw the biggest search spike in 2012, followed by Ron Paul and Barack Obama. Todd Akin, the Missouri senate candidate whose comments on “legitimate rape” drew fierce criticism, made two lists. He was the eighth politician on the trends list and had the fifth most commonly searched political gaffe.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney swept the top four political gaffe terms: his quip about Big Bird and PBS, his fundraiser speech about the “47 percent”, his debate-night comments about binders full of women and his joke about wondering why airplane windows don’t open.

President Obama took the next two gaffes, thanks to his assertion that the “private sector is doing fine” and his open-mike aside to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would have more “flexibility” after the election to talk about missile defense.

Vice President Biden can claim credit for the next three slips: his Roosevelt reference gone-wrong about Obama’s “big stick,” his assertion that he’s known three presidents “intimately” and his campaign stop criticism that Romney’s financial policy would “put y’all back in chains.”

Facebook’s lists mirrored much of what’s been in other roundups — the election, the Super Bowl, Houston’s death, Hurricane Sandy and the Olympics — but also included a list of the top new memes for the year.

The biggest new meme was “TBH,” or “to be honest,” which has become a kind of Facebook status that users post. If a user’s friends like a TBH post, the user is supposed to then post some honest comment about those friends.

Through its integration with music services, Facebook also was able to post the most-listened to songs of the year: Fun’s “We Are Young,” Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know,” Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” and One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful.”

Related stories:

A year in search: Olympics, elections and the iPhone 5

Twitter releases top trends of 2012

Google Maps returns to the iPhone

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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