Whitney Houston

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Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston was the most-searched-for term both in the United States and worldwide. After making headlines for decades for her hit records, sold-out shows, tempestuous marriage to Bobby Brown and eventual struggles with substance addiction, in February the 48-year-old Houston drowned in a hotel bathtub with a cocktail of drugs in her system. The three most-searched-for images in the world were for boy-band One Direction, baby-faced singer and actress Selena Gomez and the Apple iPhone 5.

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Hurricane Sandy

The hurricane that roared into the East Coast Oct. 29 was the third-most-searched-for term overall worldwide and topped the list of the world's most-searched-for events. During the storm, this boat in the Rockaway section of Brooklyn made its way onto the tracks of the A train subway line.

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Kate Middleton

Dubbed "Waity Katie" by a snarky British press during the eight years it took Prince William to pop the question, Kate Middleton, aka, the well-dressed Duchess of Cambridge, has since found fans in romantics, fashionistas and those curious to learn more about her penchant for nude sunbathing. Kate was the sixth-top search worldwide and the second-most-searched-for person, behind Whitney Houston and ahead of Amanda Todd, a Canadian teen who committed suicide after being bullied online.

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The world loves an underdog, and they found one in Jeremy Lin, the overlooked Knicks player who went from couch-surfing hopeful to the pride of New York City in a matter of days, after his team's dominating super-star players were sidelined. Vocal about his Christian faith and one of the few Asian-American faces in the NBA, Lin scored at least 20 points and had seven assists in each of his first five starts—an NBA first. According to Google, no athlete was searched for more, and Lin was the world's seventh most-Googled person overall.

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The 2012 Olympics

London hosted the 2012 Summer Olympics—which was the seventh-most-searched-for term overall, the sixth-highest top-trending hashtag and the third-most popular event. London also played host to the games in 1908 and 1948, though it was originally selected to the host the 1944 Summer Olympics, which were cancelled due to World War II.

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Honey Boo Boo

The world proves that it loves a train wreck. Or, more generously, some low-brow entertainment. The third-most-Googled TV show was Honey Boo Boo, a reality show about a 6-year-old beauty pageant contestant and her family. Ahead of the Honey clan were Avenida Brasil, a telenovella that has so gripped Brazil that the president has rescheduled events, knowing crowds will be sparse when the show is on, and Big Brother Brasil, which attracted still more viewers after one cast member was recorded seemingly sexually assaulting another.

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This term grabbed the No. 10 spot on the most-hashtagged list, after actor Clint Eastwood at the Republican National Convention spoke to an empty chair, pretending that President Obama was sitting in it.

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Felix Baumgartner

Seventh on both the top-Googled People and Events lists was adrenaline-junky Felix Baumgartner. As part of the Oct. 14 Red Bull Stratos mission, Baumgartner jumped from a balloon-lifted capsule 128,100 feet in the air, falling at a high-speed of Mach 1.24, or 833.9mph. He set world records for the highest manned balloon ascent, for freefalling from the highest altitude and for falling the longest vertical distance in a free fall. From jump to landing, the fall took 9 minutes and 9 seconds.

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The iPad 3

On March 7, Apple introduced the iPad 3, which fans, along with media and analysts, had been anticipating for some time. On Oct. 23, Apple introduced the iPad 4, which really no one—least of all iPad 3 owners—was expecting. Worldwide, the iPad 3 was 2012's most Googled piece of electronics.

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Samsung Galaxy S III

Samsung's Galaxy S III was the second most-Googled device. Samsung introduced the smartphone May 3, months ahead of a new iPhone debut, and packed it with LTE, NFC, six sensors that attune it to its user, unexpected shortcuts that users are likely still figuring out, and a 4.8-inch display, which was considered gigantic at the time. In five months, Samsung sold 30 million of them.

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Apple iPad Mini

Alongside its unexpected fourth-generation iPad, Apple debuted a long-awaited iPad Mini—the third most-Googled electronic device. Apple had earlier panned the 7-inch model, with Steve Jobs once famously calling them "dead on arrival," but Apple reworked the form factor. The iPad Mini features a 7.9-inch display, which according to Apple offers a 67 percent larger viewing area when Web browsing and 35 percent more screen real estate overall, than traditional 7-inch tablets.

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Gangnam Style

The overall second most-Googled term around the planet was Gangnam Style, a video that no doubt made for a happier, if less productive, 2012. Since going viral this summer, it has been viewed nearly 1 billion times and has inspired countless spoofs and imitations, including one from Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei.

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