20 Years of Top Trending Google Searches – Visual Capitalist

20 Years of Top Trending Google Searches – Visual Capitalist

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Infographic showing images of search trends on Google over the past 20 years
For decades, Google search has been a go-to source for many when looking up directions, keeping up with the news, or seeking information on new and unfamiliar topics.
Today, Google processes about 3.5 billion searches per day. Because of its dominant market share, Google holds a vast archive of keyword searches that, when analyzed, provide an interesting glimpse into the key themes that have captured the world’s attention over the years.
This graphic, using data from Google Trends, goes back 20 years and highlights some of the top keyword searches since 2001.
Our editorial team dug through hundreds of top trending search terms from global and U.S. data and hand-selected their top picks, which are featured in the graphic above.
Before diving in, it’s worth emphasizing how top trending searches differ from popular searches, which are measured by sheer volume.
Trending searches are terms that have recently spiked in popularity. They focus on growth rather than total volume, and in this dataset, trending terms gauge year-over-year growth.
A good example is Donald Trump, who popped up in the news cycle during the 2016 presidential campaign. After the election, interest in Trump remained high. But his name doesn’t pop up on the Google trends list after 2017, since by that point, search volume for Trump had plateaued.
What are the most popular Google search terms, by volume? To be honest, they’re slightly less interesting than the top trending searches — YouTube is number one, followed by Facebook, then WhatsApp web.
The people and topics featured in Google’s top trends lists evolves as time goes on, reflecting broader adoption of the internet (and Google Search) around the world over time. Early themes are tied to mainstream U.S. pop culture and tech trends.
As time goes on, social media and smartphone adoption increase the granularity and volume of searches, resulting in top trends that are more participatory, diverse, and global in nature.
One final variable to keep in mind is that Google itself began to share more detailed search highlights with each passing year.
Now that we’ve explained what trending searches actually measure, let’s dig into some of the key themes that have emerged over the last two decades of Google searches.
Over the last 20 years, sports have remained a continuous trend.
Every four years, the World Cup shows up as a top trending keyword across the globe. The Olympics also makes a regular appearance, along with Olympic athletes like Michael Phelps and McKayla Maroney.
Although the U.S. dominates the list, particularly when it comes to athletes, there’s still a good variety of international sports that go viral, especially as time goes on. In the last two years, cricket, rugby, and soccer have all made the top five trending lists.
Over time, you can also see a transition from the conventional celebrity to celebrity 2.0, also known as the social media celebrity. 
In the early 2000s, pop culture icons like Britney Spears, Eminem, and Jennifer Lopez flooded the trending searches, and traditional media forms like TV shows and Movies dominated the mass media categories.  
But by 2011, YouTube stars like Rebecca Black started to make their way on the trending search lists. And in 2014, Meme emerged as a top trending category.
This transition nods to a larger shift in media, as digital has gradually overtaken traditional media as the dominant form of entertainment.
Natural Disasters are a key trend throughout this data set as well.
Hurricanes are a particularly trendy word, showing up almost half the time—in eight of the 20 years. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina ranked second in the most searched category across the globe.
It continued to gain global attention—by 2006, Hurricane Katrina was still in the top five trending news searches.
Our team enjoyed sifting through 20 years of Google data, and we hope you enjoyed this blast from the past too. If you’d like to dive deeper, you can explore Google’s full dataset here.
Happy searching.
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From Twitter to TikTok, this infographic compares the universe of social media and messaging platforms by number of monthly active users.
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For a time, life in the social media universe was mostly uneventful. Consider these spicy (at the time) headlines:
In hindsight, the years leading up to 2016 were downright sleepy in comparison with what would follow. Donald Trump’s meteoric, tweet-powered rise to the presidency. The Cambridge Analytica scandal. Congressional hearings on privacy and bias. TikTok at the center of souring U.S.–China relations. Each new day brought a fresh wave of controversy the shores of once infallible social media platforms.
Today, the honeymoon phase is long over and the messiness of running a global social platform is now on full display. Nowhere is this more evident than Twitter during the current Elon Musk transitional period—but more details on that later.
For now, let’s explore the social media universe in 2022.
In 2022, the social universe is looking more crowded than in previous years.
The scale of Meta’s platforms still dominate thanks to their global reach, but there are a number of smaller networks fighting for market share. Here’s a look at popular platforms, organized from largest to smallest active userbase:
Visualisation showing the largest social media platforms by monthly active users
Meanwhile, here are the top 10 social media and messaging platforms by publicly-available monthly active users:
YouTube is the only true competition for Meta’s scale and reach. Alphabet’s video content hub with social features boasts more than two billion monthly active users. YouTube’s embrace of the creator economy is nudging the platform further into pure social media territory with the introduction of “handles”.
As seen in the visualization above, China has its own ecosystem of large social and messaging platforms—the largest of these being WeChat.
The only platform in the top 20 that is not based in either the U.S. or China is the privacy-focused messaging app, Telegram. The Dubai-based company has a unique backstory. It was created after the founders of Russian social network VK left the country after resisting government pressure to release data on the social network’s users in Ukraine.
Today, there are also a number of smaller, special interest platforms. OnlyFans, for example, is focused on adult content creators. Parler and Truth Social appeal to users who want fewer constraints on the content they post and consume. BeReal aims to create more authentic moments by prompting users to post a photo at a random time each day.
Below, we dig into a few of these platforms into more depth.
zuckerberg meta 2022
Having a figurehead CEO is a double-edged sword. When things are going well, the market rallies around the successful leader. Case in point, Mark Zuckerberg was named Time’s Person of the Year in 2010. Even as recently as 2016, Glassdoor named the Facebook founder the “most admired tech CEO”.
On the flip side, when the tide turns, it turns fast. After a series of controversies, Zuckerberg took a multi-billion-dollar gamble by renaming his entire company Meta and pivoting its focus to the burgeoning idea of a metaverse. Meta’s New Horizons platform is rumored to have plateaued at about 200,000 active users, which is underwhelming for a company that still reaches a sizable slice of humanity with its other services.
Part of Meta’s near-term success hinges on VR headsets being a hot gift this holiday season. Meta’s cheapest headset is $400, which could be a tough sell in today’s economic environment.
Chart showing falling consumer sentiment in the united states in 2022
Of course, it’s too early to know whether Zuckerberg’s gamble will pay off. As always, all is forgiven once a business unit takes off and becomes profitable.
elon musk twitter 2022
Twitter has a complicated history.
The company was launched in the shadow of Facebook’s massive growth, and was saddled with expectations that were tough to meet. Although Twitter has an engaged and influential audience, it hasn’t managed to monetize them at the level of Meta’s platforms (for better or worse). The introduction of Twitter Blue in 2021 did not resonate with users at the scale the company hoped, and “fleets” were essentially written off as a failed experiment.
In addition, Twitter is a magnet for criticism and debate around free speech, in part because of its central place in political discourse.
These issues are directly related to the company’s recent sale to Elon Musk. At the time of this article, Twitter finds itself in the midst of a painful, and very public, internal restructuring.
If reports of an exodus of talent and advertising dollars are to be believed, then the future of one of world’s most influential social media platforms could be at risk.
social media TikTok Douyin 2022
Social media has always been dominated by Facebook and its related apps. When a new challenger came along, Facebook either acquired it (Instagram, WhatsApp), or “acquired” their features (Snapchat). TikTok is the first challenger to keep its momentum and growth, even as Instagram rolled out very similar features.
TikTok is also a rare case of a Chinese tech product crossing over into Western markets. The ascendancy of TikTok was not without controversy though. Suspicion over Chinese access to user data continues to be an issue both in the U.S., and in other large markets around the world. TikTok has been banned in India since 2020.
Despite these headwinds, TikTok remains wildly popular. The short-form video platform was the number one downloaded app on the planet, and it remains a favorite of the all-important Gen Z demographic.
nextdoor neighbors citizen 2022
In recent years, neighborhood-based social networks have sprung up and gained traction. NextDoor used physical letters sent to adjacent addresses to supercharge its growth, while Neighbors piggybacked off the popularity of Ring’s doorbell cameras. Although members post about more benign topics such as lost cats and where to find a good plumber, crime is an increasingly common theme as well.
Apps like Neighbors and Citizen have a more overt focus on crime and safety. While the growth of these apps reflects an obvious interest preventing crime, critics point out that the ubiquity of personal surveillance equipment and forums built purely around public safety promote a culture of suspicion in communities.
This type of social network is still quite new, so it remains to be seen if they remain niche communities, or grow into something bigger.
It was Sun Tzu who famously said, “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”.
This is the risk and opportunity in the social media universe today. With their massive networks and high switching costs (e.g. personalization, library of existing posts), the largest platforms have created moats that make life hard for upstart brands looking to replace established platforms. On the other hand, controversy on platforms like Twitter and Facebook may cause some users to consider new options.
The multi-billion-dollar question—is dissatisfaction with major platforms temporary, or will emerging networks like Mastodon or BeReal hit critical mass and become new staples for people connecting online. Time will tell.
What types of people are celebrated on our money? Here’s a look at the various occupations that are featured on international currencies.
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On currencies throughout the world, you’ll see everything from revolutionaries to poets featured prominently. But how does this mix of notable people break down quantitatively?
This graphic by NetCredit shows the types of people, by their main occupations and roles, that are featured on banknotes and coins worldwide.
To find out the types of people most featured on money, NetCredit analyzed all the banknotes and coins in circulation in every country across the globe in 2022.
From monarchs to athletes, the analysis found that many types of people appear on banknotes and coins worldwide. In fact, 51 different main occupations and roles were identified, which were then organized into eight overarching categories:
Here’s a breakdown of all 51 different occupations, and what percentage of worldwide currencies they’re featured on:
The analysis shows that over 50% of the people featured on money are either monarchs or heads of government, many of which are no longer in power.
For instance, Belize was once a British colony and still features the late Elizabeth II on all of its currency—even though the country gained independence from the UK in 1981.
And everyone featured on U.S. currency is also a historical figure. Putting living celebrities on U.S. money has been banned since 1866, after Spencer Clark, who was the Superintendent of the U.S. National Currency Bureau at the time, printed his own face on the 5-cent banknote instead of the explorer William Clark of “Lewis and Clark.”
Featured on over 100 different currencies around the world, the late Elizabeth II is the most featured person on banknotes and coins.
This makes sense considering the UK’s widespread historical reach. During the height of its reign in the early 20th century, the British Empire ruled nearly a quarter of the world.
"Most common faces on international currencies"
Perhaps unsurprisingly, 6 of the top 10 most-featured people on currencies are monarchs, while the rest are heads of government.
While Elizabeth II is the most featured person on currencies around the world, it’s worth mentioning that few other women have been given the same honor.
A study analyzed 1,006 current international banknotes and found that only 15% featured images of women.
However, some countries are actively trying to celebrate more women on their money. For example, the U.S. has been planning to put Harriet Tubman on the U.S. $20 bill for years, and while there have been some delays, the bill is currently on track to get released by 2030.
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