Google Top Searches in 2013: Nelson Mandela, Paul Walker, iPhone 5S

Google's annual year-end Zeitgeist lists tell the story of what we all searched for online in the past year.

Nelson Mandela topped Google's 13th annual Zeitgeist list for 2013 as the most popular trending search for the year, followed by searches for the actor Paul Walker and the Apple iPhone 5S.

Google releases the Zeitgeist, or "Spirit of the Times," lists and an accompanying Year in Review video each December to highlight the top trending searches by online visitors to in the past year. The latest results were unveiled by Amit Singhal, a Google senior vice president, in a Dec. 17 post on the Google Official Blog.

"Every day, around the world, we search," wrote Singhal. "We want to find out more about our heroes, explore far-away destinations, or settle a dinner table dispute between friends. And sometimes we just search to find out how many calories are in an avocado."

The 2013 Zeitgeist is Google's largest such effort yet, he wrote, with 1,000-plus top 10 lists across categories such as "Trending People," "Most-Searched Events" and "Top Trending Searches" from 72 countries. "Trending" Web searches are searches about hot topics that had the highest amount of traffic over a sustained period in 2013 as compared with 2012.

"It's perhaps unsurprising that the #1 trending search of 2013 was an international symbol of strength and peace: Nelson Mandela," wrote Singhal. "Global search interest in the former President of South Africa was already high this year, and after his passing, people from around the world turned to Google to learn more about Madiba and his legacy."

In second place on the top trending search list is the late actor Paul Walker, who became famous for his roles in "The Fast & the Furious" film series and who died in a car crash in California on Nov. 30. The Apple iPhone 5S landed in third place.

Rounding out the Top 10 list for most popular global trending searches for 2013 are Cory Monteith, a Canadian actor who died in July from a drug overdose; Harlem Shake dances; the Boston Marathon and the horrific terrorist bombings that occurred there this year on April 15; the birth of the Royal baby, Prince George, to Prince William and Kate Middleton in England; the introduction of the new Samsung Galaxy S 4 smartphone; the debut of the new Sony PlayStation 4 gaming system; and North Korea and its leaders and ongoing controversies.

The Boston Marathon bombings topped the Global Events List for 2013, followed by Typhoon Haiyan, which decimated the Philippines, and the U.S. government shutdown.

"2013 also had moments that made us move," wrote Singhal. "People uploaded more than 1.7 million video versions of the Harlem Shake to YouTube, propelling it to the #5 spot on our global list; it was also the second most trending video on YouTube. And unashamedly, we all wanted to learn about twerking, which topped this year's 'what is…' list of search terms."

Online visitors can explore the complete Zeitgeist list and its more than 1,000 categories and Top 10 lists by browsing the Zeitgeist homepage. "Check out the top 100 trending searches of 2013, and simply click one to dig deeper on Google Trends," wrote Singhal. "Or if you'd rather be nostalgic, you can take a look back at each year's Zeitgeist from 2001 on."

Also featured is an interactive 3D global map showcasing the top search trends of 2013 by day in cities around the world, he wrote. "You can easily spin the globe, select a city and explore the topics that brought people to search on any day of the year—from local sports games to international news stories."

Just a year ago, Google's Zeitgeist 2012 global and U.S. search lists were topped by Whitney Houston and her volatile personal life and tragic death in February 2012, followed by the Gangnam Style dance and the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. The Apple iPad 3 came in at No. 4, and the video game Diablo 3 landed in the No. 5 spot in 2012.

Rounding out the rest of the top 10 global searches for 2012 were Kate Middleton at No. 6; the 2012 Olympics at No. 7; Amanda Todd, a Canadian teen who committed suicide in October after being the victim of vicious bullying, at No. 8; actor Michael Clarke Duncan (the big actor from "The Green Mile") at No. 9; and the television show "Big Brother Brazil 2012" (BBB12) in the 10th spot.

The Google Zeitgeist list was quite different in 2011, when one-hit Web wonder Rebecca Black, who sang the song, "Friday," ranked first, followed by searches about Google's then-new Google+ service. Actor Ryan Dunn, the "Jackass" TV show star who was killed in an auto accident in June 2011, ranked third on that list, followed by Casey Anthony, who was found not guilty in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, in fourth. The top five in 2011 was rounded out by the release of the first-person shooter video game, "Battlefield 3."