Zeitgeist 2009: the collective consciousness

Curiosity — it's why we search the web. Whether searching for the latest news, a popular holiday gift, a website you've heard about, the latest singing sensation, or the trailer to a blockbuster film, you come to Google with something on your mind. And since 2001, we've been releasing our annual Zeitgeist — our view into the spirit of the times — which includes the fastest-rising Google searches (those that had the greatest surge in the past year) and most popular (those that are consistently searched in large volume, like [weather]). By exploring 2009's popular and fastest rising search terms, we're able to share a glimpse into what's been on the mind of the global community this year. 

So what has captivated the minds of searchers around the world this year? As millions of fans said goodbye to the King of Pop, Michael Jackson led the list of our top 10 fastest rising queries across the globe. And a new star was born, too — quirky pop singer Lady Gaga became a search sensation the world over. In addition to appearing on many regional fastest-rising search term lists, from the Czech Republic to Switzerland and Kenya to the United Kingdom, Lady Gaga also landed in the #9 spot on the global fastest rising list.

This year's Zeitgeist also confirms that the social web is alive and well. In a sweeping confirmation of the web's ability to connect us, both Facebook and the Spanish social-networking site Tuenti  appeared on the fastest rising searches at #2 and #3 respectively. Twitter also made our global list for the first time at #5 — undoubtedly propelled by celebrity tweeters from Ashton Kutcher to Miley Cyrus. 

With the global community closely watching the swine flu epidemic, [schweinegrippe], [gripe porcina], [豬流感], [h1n1], [świńskiej grypy] and [sikainfluenssa] were heavily queried the world over. In fact, in the U.S., swine flu was searched even more than another major event of the year: the inauguration of President Obama.

In the U.S., 2009 also saw many people express their thrifty consciousness in response to the sour economy. The most popular made by hand searches including everything from baby food (#2) to laundry detergent (#6). And as more and more turned to comfort foods and recipes to make at home, [chili] became the most popular recipe searched for across the country.

It's because of curious searchers like you and the billions of searches you do throughout the year, that our annual Zeitgeist has become an insightful look into a global mindset. So please check out our Zeitgeist site, which showcases many of these interesting trends across various categories and countries, and more about how we create the lists. We're already anticipating what trends we will see in 2010!