Robin Williams tops 2014 list of Google searches

Reed Saxon/AP File PhotoRobin Williams speaks at The 24th American Cinematheque Awards in Beverly Hills

Reed Saxon/AP File PhotoRobin Williams speaks at The 24th American Cinematheque Awards in Beverly Hills

Robin Williams' suicide seared into the world's collective mindset more than anything else this year, based on what people were searching for on Google.

The reaction to Williams' death in August topped Google's list of 2014's fastest-rising search requests. It beat notable events such as the World Cup, the Ebola outbreak, the March disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and the Ice Bucket Challenge, an Internet video craze to raise awareness and money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's Disease.

Other topics of worldwide intrigue on Google included the addictive smartphone game “Flappy Bird,” bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst, the Middle East extremist group ISIS, the hit Disney movie “Frozen” and the Winter Olympics in Russia.

Williams, Ebola, the World Cup and the Ice Bucket also ranked among the most-discussed subjects this year on Facebook, which released its list last week. Google released its list Tuesday.

Williams' death drove many people to reminisce about his career highlights. In the first few days after his suicide, there was a six-fold increase in the number of Google searches for “carpe diem” — a Latin phrase for “seize the day” that Williams popularized in the film “Dead Poets Society.” Reports about Williams' long-running battle with depression caused searches for that term to triple. There was also a flurry of searches about his movies (the top five were: “Mrs. Doubtfire,” ''Dead Poets Society,” ''Good Will Hunting,” ''Jumanji” and “Patch Adams.”)

Google's worldwide list of the year's hottest search requests mirrored the activity in the U.S. with a few exceptions. Wurst didn't make the Top 10 list in the U.S., nor did the Winter Olympics. Instead, Web surfers in the U.S. were seeking more information about the August confrontation that culminated in a white policeman shooting and killing Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Ukraine's conflict with Russia also held more intrigue in the U.S. than the rest of the world.

Google's review follows annual roundups compiled during the previous two weeks by its main search rivals. Although Google's list usually comes last each year, its rankings typically provide more telling insights into what people were thinking because the company's technology processes about two out of every three search requests made on the Internet.

Yahoo's search lists indicated that its websites tend to attract entertainment-minded people. While Ebola topped Yahoo's rankings for 2014, celebrities or entertainers occupied six of the other slots. They were singer Ariana Grande (No. 3), actress Jennifer Lawrence (No. 4), actress Kaley Cuoco (No. 5), reality TV star Kim Kardashian (No. 6), singer Miley Cyrus (No. 8) and actress Jennifer Aniston (No. 10). Yahoo's list was rounded out by: the video game “Minecraft,” whose popularity prompted Microsoft to buy it for $2.5 billion earlier this year; “Frozen” and Apple's latest gadget, the iPhone 6.

Instead of doing a wide-ranging compilation of top searches, Microsoft's Bing separated its lists into disparate categories, such as athletes (NBA star LeBron James soared the highest), celebrities (Kardashian reigned), vacation destinations (Costa Rica) and musicians (Beyonce).

Bay Area NewsBeyoncéISISRobin Williams

Just Posted

Salesforce Tower and several other buildings in downtown San Francisco can be seen through the fog; climate scientists report that The City’s beloved mascot may be on the decline. (Courtesy Engel Ching)
Is San Francisco losing its fog? Scientists fear the worst

This isn’t just an identity crisis for San Franciscans. It’s an ecological problem

London Breed, mayor of San Francisco, on May 26, 2021. Black women achieved a historic milestone as mayors of eight major American cities this year and political analysts say the record number points to “the age of Black women in politics.” (Bethany Mollenkof/The New York Times)
Eight Black women who run some of the biggest U.S. cities

By Jennifer Harlan and Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio New York Times… Continue reading

The Bay Area is vying to be one of 16 communities,<ins> spread across the U.S., Canada and Mexico,</ins> to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup soccer championships. Games would be played at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. (Courtesy Bay Area Host Committee, World Cup 2026)
Bay Area launches bid to host World Cup games in 2026

FIFA officials pay San Francisco a visit as they tour prospective venues

The sun sets over the Bay Area, seen from the Berkeley hills on Oct. 18, 2017. “The gauzy fantasy that we are so much better here in the Bay Area because of our diversity, because we are too focused on the future to get hung up on this region’s ugly past, because we’re so much cooler than everywhere else — lets white liberals pretend that the taint of racism can’t reach them here in this shining city on a bunch of hills.” (Andrew Burton/New York Times)
The Bay Area is far from a haven for progressive diversity and harmony

‘I’ve experienced more day-to-day racism in the Bay Area than in the last capital of the Confederacy.’

Most Read