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Google's top searches peer into society's mindset

  • Youngsters write tribute messages to former South Africa President Nelson Mandela during a public screening at the Orlando stadium in the Soweto township, Johannesburg, of his funeral in Qunu, South Africa, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

SAN FRANCISCO — Death, devices and celebrity drove the quest for more information on Google's search engine this year.

Three of the world's four fastest-rising search requests on Google were triggered by the deaths of famous men.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela, who died earlier this month, occupied the top spot, followed by "Fast & Furious" movie star Paul Walker, who died in a Nov. 30 car crash. "Glee" TV series cast member Cory Monteith, who died of a drug overdose in July, ranked fourth in an annual retrospective released Tuesday.

The Boston Marathon bombings in April that killed three people ranked sixth.

The iPhone 5S, the latest upgrade in Apple's most popular product line, finished third in Google's rankings. A rival smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S4, took the eighth spot. PlayStation 4, Sony Corp.'s newest video game console, held the ninth position.

The Top 10 was rounded out by the "Harlem Shake," a song that inspired a procession of amusing dance videos, at No. 5; "royal baby" Prince George, the heir to England's throne, at No. 7; and North Korea, whose saber-rattling has become a source of international tension, at No. 10.

Google's review follows annual round-ups compiled during the previous two weeks by its main search rivals — Microsoft Corp.'s Bing, Yahoo Inc. and Ask.com. Although its list usually comes last each year, Google's breakdown typically provides the greatest insight into the world's collective mindset because the company's technology processes about two out of every three search requests made on the Internet.

Bing ranks a distant second with 18 percent of the U.S. search market, and even less in most other countries. Yahoo, which relies on Bing's technology, handles the third most search requests.

Because the same inquiries tend to crop up from one year to the next, Google tries to keep its list fresh by focusing on the queries that post the biggest annual gains — a measurement that the Mountain View, Calif., company calls "trending."

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