Google Top 10 Rising Searches of 2011: Rebecca Black, Google+, Hurricane Irene and the iPhone Lead the List

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What do Rebecca Black and Herman Cain have in common? She's 14; he's 66. She's a singer; he's a business executive-turned-politician. Neither is currently running for president.

What unites them is that Google reports this morning they topped its lists of rising searches of 2011 -- along with Google+, Hurricane Irene, Justin Bieber's hair, and other people and phenomena.

The major search engines and social networking sites -- Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, Bing and others -- regularly mark the end of the year with lists of what was on people's minds. Google, the largest of the search engines, was out with its summary today. You'll see its lists below, split into various categories, and you're welcome to debate what they mean.

The managers of the different sites often remind us that these are not necessarily the most-searched things in cyberspace; there is probably a lot more traffic in routine "navigational" searches ("weather forecast" or "pizza North Side Chicago").

But the sites say they use complex (and carefully-guarded) algorithms to tell them what's trending at a given time.

"Rebecca Black" was, if you will, the biggest breakout hit on Google this year. Not many people had heard of her in previous years, so they looked her up.

Likewise for Cain, who led Google's list of political searches. He did not come out of nowhere -- he was very successful running Godfather's Pizza -- but several of his opponents were better known. Certainly, people looked up Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, but they'd already been doing that for years. So Cain was the "fastest rising" search, Google said, even if he wasn't the single biggest.

Here are several lists for the U.S. as provided by Google:

Fastest Rising Searches of 2011:

1. Rebecca Black
2. Google+
3. Hurricane Irene
4. Pinterest
5. Ryan Dunn
6. iPhone 5
7. Casey Anthony
8. Adele
9. Osama bin Laden
10. Steve Jobs

Fastest Rising Politics Searches:

1. Herman Cain
2. Rep Giffords
3. Obama jobs plan
4. Dominique Strauss-Kahn
5. Cheri Daniels
6. Issue 2
7. Huma Abedin
8. Rick Perry
9. Wisconsin news 2012
10. Republican candidates

Google Images: Fastest Rising Searches:

1. Planking
2. Kate Upton
3. Justin Bieber 2011
4. Pippa Middleton
5. Hope Solo
6. Ryan Dunn
7. Mariah Carey twins
8. Rebecca Black
9. Casey Anthony
10. Royal Wedding

Most Popular People:

1. Justin Bieber
2. Kim Kardashian
3. Lady Gaga
4. Nicki Minaj
5. Casey Anthony
6. Selena Gomez
7. Charlie Sheen
8. Steve Jobs
9. Amy Winehouse
10. Ryan Dunn

It's worth noting that Yahoo, which put out its list on Dec. 1, came up with somewhat different rankings.

The Yahoo Top-Ten List:

1. iPhone
2. Casey Anthony
3. Kim Kardashian
4. Katy Perry
5. Jennifer Lopez
6. Lindsay Lohan
7. American Idol
8. Jennifer Aniston
9. Japan earthquake
10. Osama bin Laden

What we get from this is a glimpse of what was on Americans' minds this year. It has limits; words like "economy" or "deficit" don't rise to the top when you're only looking for breakout trends. And our interests are really very diverse. Google has said in the past that, on any given day, fully a quarter of the searches it sees are for things people have never looked up on the site before.

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