Dec. 15, 2011 at 12:01 PM ET
In the past year, Google users around the world got more excited about tech topics Google+, "Battlefield 3" and Steve Jobs than almost anything else, according to their billions of queries. In the Google top 10 list of 2011's fastest rising search terms overall, the mythical iPhone 5 also appeared, along with a very real Apple product, the iPad 2.
Google's annual Zeitgeist is a look back at the year and its fastest rising search terms — as opposed to staples like such as "Lady Gaga" and "Justin Bieber," who have reigned in popular searches for a while. "Fastest rising" gives a better indication of what was hot at different points during the year.
The interactive list of the top 10 fastest rising searches allows for more exploration, instantly. Clicking on Steve Jobs, for example, leads to several tabs that show a young Jobs, an older Jobs and a search volume time-lapse interactive that shows how the searches for him peaked in the week of his death last October.
That's not to say it's not confusing, trying to navigate the newly redesigned Zeitgeist site. It took a little while just to go beyond the global lists and find all the categories under the "United States" tab. Last year, the site had some interactive elements, but the list made it easy to sift through the information.
There, G+, iPhone 5 and Jobs once again appeared in the fastest rising (overall) top 10 list; iPhone and iPad 2 broke into the top five of U.S.-based Google News searches; and amongst fastest rising images, planking ruled.
Also in the U.S., tech completely dominated the fastest rising product searches from the HP TouchPad (which touched off a fire-sale frenzy a few times this year) at the very top to the iPhone 4 at No. 10. In-between, tablets and smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy captured the interest of consumers this year.
In the "Tech & Gadgets" section of the U.S. results, Apple dominates the fastest rising technology category, with 7 of 10 entries. (Good work, fanboys and girls!) In the fasetest rising gadgets category, the Amazon Kindle Fire sparked the most interest, with the iPhone 4S close behind. This one-two punch would be repeated in the global top 10 list of fastest rising consumer electronics searches.
Several Android devices did manage to muscle their way in, all from HTC: the Thunderbolt, the Inspire and the Sensation. The soon-to-be-extinct also made a good run in 2011: the HP TouchPad and Palm Pre 3 were in the U.S. gadgets list too.
Among cellphones, the iPhone was the most searched, but six of the top 10 were Androids.
While much of the tech that shows up on the lists is consistent, there was one notable omission on the U.S. side that was prominent on global searches: the Nexus Prime (by Samsung). While its appearance does show how Google reflects anticipation among the masses for the Next Big Thing around the corner, perhaps its lower standing in the U.S. was due to a late-in-the-year name change: Here it is called the Galaxy Nexus.
Last year, the World Cup caught the curiosity of Google users, as well as other big world events, such as the earthquake in Haiti and Gulf oil spill. This year, the disaster in Japan was reflected in the multiple appearances of the Fukushima nuclear plant on the lists.
You can also check out the year-end video Google made, which flashes some of the more familiar visuals of the past year: Thailand floods, the Occupy movement, revolutionary movements fueled by social media, President Obama announcing the death of Osama bin Laden and the final launch of the space shuttle program.