Google has spent years constructing a system capable of delivering the world’s information to a computer or mobile-device screen in a fraction of a second. That effort has required legions of data scientists and software engineers, armies of workers and architects to actually build the data centers that power those searches, billions of dollars to keep the entire thing running smoothly.
In 2012, how did people take advantage of that gargantuan infrastructure? What deep secrets of the universe did they try to uncover? What were, in short, the most-searched subjects of the past twelve months?
According to Google’s Zeitgeist 2012—its measure of worldwide search trends—the top search term was “Whitney Houston,” followed by “Gangnam Style,” followed by “Hurricane Sandy.” Rounding out the top five were “iPad 3” and “Diablo 3.”
“We studied an aggregation of over one trillion searches (or queries) that people typed into Google Search this year,” read Google’s explanatory note on the Website. “We used data from multiple sources, including Google Trends and internal data tools. We filtered out spam and repeat queries to build lists that best reflect the spirit of 2012.”
In the United States, “Whitney Houston” again topped Web searches in 2012, followed by “Hurricane Sandy,” “Election 2012,” “Hunger Games,” and “Jeremy Lin.” Those seeking practical knowledge asked the search engine “How to love,” “How to rock,” and “How to vote,” “How to install,” and “How to hate,” in that order.
Google has become more open about the infrastructure that powers its search. Back in October, it launched a Website titled “Google Data Centers,” which offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse into its server facilities. Google has focused on making those buildings energy efficient; the pipes and wires threading through them are brightly colored, presumably so workers can more seamlessly maintain and repair equipment as issues arise.
All that infrastructure, backing up all that massive data-analytics software, all so the world can figure out the latest about pop stars.