The Year of Chatroulette: How the World Used Google Search in 2010

While Google has been challenged this year by Yahoo, Bing, WolframAlpha and other engines, it remains the dominant platform for search. Through the site, a browser toolbar and other applications and programs, we use Google to search the web for pages, images, news and more about 400 million times (PPT) every day. How we use the search giant can tell us a lot about who we are and the times we live in. With that in mind, Google released its annual Zeitgeist report last week, illuminating search trends over the past year. After analyzing billions of queries -- and filtering out both spam and repeat queries -- the Zeitgeist team put together the package, which "reflect[s] the spirit of the times," according to the report's site.

We've gone through the report and these are some of the most interesting data we could pull out. The gallery below shows Google's ten "fastest rising queries" for the year, "which means we found the most popular searches conducted in 2010 and then ranked them based on how much their popularity increased compared to 2009," the Zeitgeist team explained. We've accompanied each query with a list of the countries or regions where it was most popular -- in order -- over the past year and a list of the related search terms.

For comparison, here are the fastest rising global search terms from previous years' Zeitgeist reports. 2009: michael jackson, facebook, tuenti, twitter, sanalika; 2008: sarah palin, beijing 2008, facebook login, tuenti, heath ledger; 2007: iphone, badoo, facebook, dailymotion, webkinz.

Chatroulette overshadowed all other trends on Google search -- even Bieber. Looking back, though, it is seen as a flash-in-the-pan. The site, which has suffered a considerable drop in users, made headlines for a month before interest tapered off. The list of fastest rising queries for the United States is similar to the global list, but the positions of the iPad and Chatroulette are reversed. In the U.S., it was the year of the tablet computer. (The rest of the list, in order: iPhone 4, World Cup, Justin Bieber, Myxer, Facebook, Grooveshark, Glee, Mocospace.)

Google Zeitgeist also tracks those search terms that fell out of favor faster than any others. Among them, the swine flu, Stephanie Meyer's teen sensation New Moon, Britain's Got Talent sensation Susan Boyle, Circuit City, MySpace layouts and National City bank.

The top global events of the year included the World Cup, hosted by South Africa; the Olympics; the earthquake in Haiti; the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico; and the ash cloud that stopped air traffic over Iceland. There's some overlap here with the top searches of the year on Yahoo! There, users in 2010 were most interested in, in order: BP oil spill, World Cup, Miley Cyrus, Kim Kardashian and Lady Gaga.

There are a lot of ways to parse the data that Google put out. (Visit the Zeitgeist project and see for yourself.) You can check top search terms and trends by date or region, sort your results by categories and view interest over time. If that sounds too complicated, Google's team put together a three-minute video that summarizes the year in search:

Presented by

Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis. The only problem? He has to prove it works.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Technology

Just In