Google’s top searches of 2013: Nelson Mandela, Paul Walker


Key of Hope Choir-Durban South Africa perform during a tribute to the late Nelson Mandela Sunday Dec. 15, 2013 at Music Hall in Detroit. (MANDI WRIGHT/AP)
December 17, 2013

Google on Tuesday released its list of the top-trending searches of 2013, which showed that two year-end deaths resonated most in a year packed with news events, product releases and well-traveled memes.

“Nelson Mandela” and “Paul Walker” were the top two trending search terms on Google’s global list, which this year surveyed the results of 72 countries — the largest sample Google has ever taken.

Searches for Mandela were strong even before the South African icon passed away earlier this month, a Google spokeswoman said. But his death at age 95 prompted a flood of searches for information about his death and life, which sent his name to the top of the list.

Walker is the actor, best known for the “Fast and the Furious” movie franchise, who late last month died in a car crash.

Searches for Apple’s iPhone 5s took the No. 3 spot, followed by searches for a third late celebrity: “Glee” star Cory Monteith, who died of an accidental drug overdose in July.

Searches for the Harlem Shake, which Google revealed last week generated 1.7 million videos, came in fifth. Queries for the Boston Marathon, Royal Baby, Samsung Galaxy S4, PlayStation 4, and North Korea rounded out the top 10 list for all of Google.

The company looks at about 1 trillion searches for its annual Zeitgeist list, but also offered breakdowns of how people use its service in different parts of the world and the United States.

Google provided The Washington Post with a list of the top trending terms and searches specifically for the D.C. region, which show off a bit of the area’s character. For example: Google’s data show Washington-area residents want to know what twerking is, but they don’t necessarily want to do it.

“What is twerking” came in at the top of the area’s list of “what is” searches, one of the more entertaining categories Google releases each year. But the question of “how to twerk” came in seventh on D.C.’s list of instructional searches.

After twerking, politics and policy stories were most searched for by people in the D.C. area. They wanted to know more about ricin, the iPhone app Path, sequestration, the Defense of Marriage Act, Obamacare, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, Easter, Bitcoin and, somewhat surprisingly, hummus. (Which does raise the question: Why is D.C. so behind in hummus education?)

The top five “how to” searches paint a picture of a city that’s studious but also capable of letting loose: how to screenshot, do the wop, flirt, and footnote. Perhaps tellingly, for this area — how to relax came in at No. 10, behind how to run, how to rap, and, yes, how to twerk.

D.C.’s more general list of top-trending search terms also set the region apart from the wider Google audience. Notably, Mandela was not even on the top-trending list for the area in 2013. In D.C., the Boston Marathon was the top trending search, followed by searches for Aaron Hernandez, the iPhone 5, rapper Lil Wayne, Monteith, Jodi Arias, the government shutdown, Walker, North Korea and the Royal Baby.

Searches for the government shutdown, perhaps unsurprisingly, resonated with Washingtonians. The term ranked seventh in D.C. and Chicago, eighth in San Francisco, and ninth in New York. In Boston, the shutdown didn’t even make the list, eclipsed in part by searches for the Red Sox and other area sports teams.

Other points of data on Google’s Washington lists show little regional touches, such as the tenth-ranking trending event, “Cherry Blossom 2013.”

A look through Google’s Zagat data turns up the restaurants that people in D.C. most searched for: Jaleo, Clyde’s, Hank’s Oyster Bar, Chef Geoff, Black Salt, J. Gilbert’s, Lincoln, Taylor Gourmet, Inn at Little Washington and Bistro Bistro.

Google’s top trending searches, global:

1. Nelson Mandela

2. Paul Walker

3. iPhone 5s

4. Cory Monteith

5. Harlem Shake

6. Boston Marathon

7. Royal Baby

8. Samsung Galaxy S4

9. PlayStation 4

10. North Korea

Google’s top trending searches, Washington D.C.:

1. Boston Marathon

2. Aaron Hernandez

3. iPhone 5s

4. Lil Wayne

5. Cory Monteith

6. Jodi Arias

7. Government Shutdown

8. Paul Walker

9. North Korea

10. Royal Baby

Related stories:

YouTube releases list of 2013’s top videos

Facebook’s Year in Review: Nelson Mandela tributes make U.S., world lists

Follow The Post’s new tech blog, The Switch, where technology and policy connect.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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