Fukushima and Rebecca Black: What the World Searched For in 2011

Google's annual Zeitgeist reflects what its millions of users wanted to know for the past 12 months.

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In 2011, there’s no need for speculation or argument about what resonated with the world in the past year. The proof is in the search results.

Google used its Zeitgeist tools to sort through “billions of Google searches to capture the year’s 10 fastest-rising global queries and the rest of the spirit” over the past year. According to Google, we were most curious, confused, and enamored with Rebecca Black, whose fluke single “Friday” was absolutely inescapable last spring. Google+ came in at second place—and the Zeitgeist list includes all sorts of data used to measure the search query’s rise. Jackass star Ryan Dunn is at No. 3, having passed away in a car accident on June 20. EA’s first-person shooter video game, Battlefield 3, is at No. 5, its search numbers jumping 1,773% from 2010. Others on the top 10 list are more expected: iPad 2, iPhone 5 (which we all now know is the iPhone 4S), Casey Anthony, Adele, the evacuation of Japan’s Fukushima plant, and of, course, Steve Jobs.

The search giant has also put out a year-in-review video—set to Matt Kearney’s sweeping “Sooner or Later”— that beautifully illustrates the revolutions, natural disasters, triumphs, losses, and viral videos of 2011, along with plenty of plugs for Google+. Ignore that last bit and it’s hard not to get a little emotional while the music pauses for Jobs to read “Stay hungry, stay foolish,” during his Stanford commencement speech.

LIST: Top 10 Everything of 2011