Guess what the hottest Google searches were for 2017?

Boy, do we have a deep-seated fascination with famous people in trouble.

The top trending Google searches for what’s been a roaringly raucous calendar year are out. And while he wasn’t searched more than the devastating Hurricane Irma, NBC’s fallen icon Matt Lauer was certainly top of mind for Americans working that search engine.

Here’s what the top of the made-in-the-USA heap looks like:

  1. Hurricane Irma
  2. Matt Lauer
  3. Tom Petty
  4. Super Bowl
  5. Las Vegas Shooting

The list that follows, of course, is endless. And it’s chock full of names and terms that will come as no surprise to most of you: Bitcoin. DACA. Monkey selfies. Jeremy Lin’s hair. Do-it-yourself eclipse glasses. Tom Petty’s death. National anthem protests in the NFL. And — who could forget? — that meme that shall live on in infamy:  “Cash Me Outside.”

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So what does ”trending” in the world of Google even mean? Simon Rogers, a data journalist and data editor at Google, explains: “We take a sample of the trillions of Google searches, because it would otherwise be too large to process quickly. By sampling our data, we can look at a dataset representative of all Google searches, while finding insights that can be processed within minutes of an event happening in the real world.”

The collective take on a global level of what people want to know, of course, is a bit different than the American version. Here are the top trending searches on Google this year:

  1.  Hurricane Irma
  2.  iPhone 8
  3.  iPhone X
  4.  Matt Lauer
  5.  Meghan Markle

This year’s hit parade also contains some marvelous ”only in 2017” sort of moments. Yes, there was a lot of interest in the ongoing fascination with sexual-misconduct allegations against powerful men, from Harvey Weinstein to Al Franken to Charlie Rose. That fascination was reflected in some of these popular search terms: “What is covfefe?” is up there pretty high on the ”what is” search list. (And we’re still waiting for President Trump to answer that one for us).

The top six names in the People category included four guys publicly disgraced over sexual-harassment allegations, plus President Trump’s former national security adviser, who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

  1. Matt Lauer
  2.  Meghan Markle
  3.  Harvey Weinstein
  4.  Michael Flynn
  5.  Kevin Spacey
  6.  Bill O’Reilly

And as we Googled our way through the year, an astonishingly high number of us seemed fixated on things like  fixing our hacked credit accounts, learning how to make slime, delving into the world of bitcoins, and figuring out how to watch a total solar eclipse without losing our eyesight in the process.

As Google’s in-house data guru puts it, the search engine’s trends research provide a fascinating look into our own collective psyche.

“Trends data is an unbiased sample of our Google search data,” Rogers wrote on Medium. “It’s anonymized (no one is personally identified), categorized (determining the topic for a search query) and aggregated (grouped together). This allows us to measure interest in a particular topic across search, from around the globe, right down to city-level geography.”

And, he adds, “you can do it, too — the free data explorer on Google Trends allows you to search for a particular topic on Google or a specific set of search terms. Use the tool and you can see search interest in a topic or search term over time, where it’s most-searched, or what else people search for in connection with it.”

So dive into all that steaming hot data. And if you figure out what “covfefe” means, do let us know.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


Photo: Building 40 at the Googleplex in Mountain View in September 2015. (Matt O’Brien/Mercury News)


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