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Our Google searches are defined by tragedy and entertainment

An interactive visualization show how people across the world discovered the Paris attacks.
Steve Dent, @stevetdent
December 16, 2015
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Nothing signals Christmas like Google's year in search lists, and this year it's gotten a lot more visual thanks to the search giant's fledgling News Lab and Trends. Sadly, the most-searched topic globally in 2015 was terrorism in Paris, thanks to the January Charlie Hebdo and November 13th attacks in the French capital. Together, the two incidents resulted in 900 million Google searches, over twice as many as the next most-sought event, the Oscars. Rounding out the top five topics were the cricket and rugby world cups and Star Wars.

Google Trends created a global timeline of major events (above), with a circle representing the number of searches and a graph showing when they happened. Clicking a circle takes you to an interactive trend chart -- with the Paris attacks, for instance, you can see when different countries started searching topics and the questions they asked. French users searched immediately with questions like "what is a state of emergency?" and "who are the terrorists?" Queries then spread to Berlin, London, New York and Tokyo, with Google highlighting universally asked, common and unique questions posed in each nation.

For the Oscars, Google showed the level of search interest in different films, with Birdman seeing a large spike after it won the Best Picture Oscar. It also highlighted Oscar search interest by country, with Ireland, Norway and Columbia (oddly) topping the lists. Similar information is also displayed for the Women's World Cup, Star Wars and Queen Elizabeth's longest reign. For the Nepal earthquake, Google features a before and after Maps splitscreen image showing the devastation.

Many users no doubt discovered these stories from social networks like Twitter, but then turned to Google to unearth more details. The extra data revealed this year by the search giant should help journalists, researchers and marketers to study trends across the globe. We hope that next year will be less tragic, but we'd imagine that US elections will dominate search in 2016. A wrap-up of 2015, featuring Caitlyn Jenner's touching Arthur Ashe awards speech is above.

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