By Brian Womack
— Whitney Houston, who died in February, edged past "Gangnam Style," "Hurricane Sandy" and "iPad 3" to top the list of global trending searches in 2012, according to Google's annual review of popular queries.
Houston, famous for such songs as "Greatest Love of All" and "I Will Always Love You," was at the top of the list. Searches for "Gangnam Style," a music video clip by Korean singing artist Psy with a record 930 million YouTube views, came in second. Grabbing the No. 3 spot was "Hurricane Sandy," the storm that lashed the New York area in late October. They were followed by Apple's "iPad 3" and then Activision Blizzard's "Diablo 3" video game.
Google, operator of the world's most-used search engine, has been rolling out its annual year-end "Zeitgeist" reports of top search topics and terms since 2001, offering a snapshot what people, topics or other matters were consuming the attention of online users.
"Zeitgeist means 'the spirit of the times,' and we strive to capture this spirit through exploring the year's new and exciting search terms," Google said in an e-mailed statement.
In the United States, the 2012 presidential election was the third- highest trending search after Whitney Houston and Hurricane Sandy, with "Gangnam Style" slipping to No. 8.
"Trending" searches are queries with the highest amount of traffic over a sustained period in 2012 compared with last year.
Facebook, which surpassed 1 billion users this year, also unveiled its own "Year in Review" on Wednesday, highlighting top topics and trends during 2012.
Within the world's largest social network, the U.S. presidential election was the top event, followed by the Super Bowl and death of Whitney Houston.
Among other rankings, Scholastic Corp.'s "Hunger Games" trilogy took the top spots among most-read books on Facebook, followed by "Fifty Shades of Grey" from Random House Inc.
The top "check-in" location on Facebook, where users broadcast their whereabouts, was New York's Times Square, followed by California's Disneyland and AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, winner of the 2012 World Series. Among sports teams, the New York Giants and New England Patriots football teams took the top spots.
Other Facebook rankings include songs and public figures, as well as trends in different countries. The review feature was also rolled out for users, showing individualized top 20 events for 2012.
Facebook, which held an initial public offering in May, was also the top-trending stock on Google Zeitgeist. Zynga, the social-gaming company that's seen its stock fall by more than 70 percent this year, grabbed the No. 2 spot. That was followed by Yelp, the review site, and Samsung Electronics.
Among Google's trending searches specific to people, Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, and Jeremy Lin, the former New York Knicks basketball player, featured in rankings.
Apple led in devices among trending tech gadgets in the U.S. Apple's iPad 3 was at the top, followed by iPad Mini. Samsung's Galaxy S3, a smartphone using Google's Android software, was No. 3, and Amazon.com's "Kindle Fire" was No. 4.