Google’s zeitgeist — it’s a Messaging World out there

Google’s now-annual ranking of the Zeitgeist is out! For those of you who haven’t seen this yet, it’s Google’s redaction of the year’s most popular search terms. As usual, I find the whole thing fascinating: Which men, women, news events, games, TV shows, and memes dominated the English-speaking, Net-using world? Search engines have become the evolving rorschach blots of the age; hell, I wish I could view a real-time scrollbar of Google’s top searches on a daily basis.

Here’s the trend I find most interesting in this year’s Zeitgeist: Trillian hit number 13 on the “Top 20 Gaining Queries” — queries that grew the most this year. Trillian is, of course, the instant-messaging killer app: It lets you connect to ICQ, AOL IM, MS Messenger and Yahoo Messenger (as well as IRC, for all you l33t d00dz) all at once. It’s a great indicator of how messaging is becoming the de facto way people keep in contact — by pinging each other all day long, instead of composing back-and-forth emails.

It probably also foregrounds how important the “presence” aspect of instant messaging is becoming: The ability to know which of your posse is online, at any point in time. I use my Danger Hiptop a lot for that reason. When I’m on the road and want to know where everyone is, I zip for a second onto AOL IM and see who’s online; it gives me this nigh-ESP-like sense of my location in the datasphere.

Interestingly, “SMS” was the second-most popular “technology” search (after “MP3”, of course). Another excellent example of how messaging — via mobile devices — is finally hitting the mainstream in the U.S., after winning over the entire European continent. If everybody out there hasn’t already read Howard Rheingold’s Smart Mobs, run — do not walk — to get a copy and read it now. It’s breathtakingly prescient about where communications, and our social behavior, are going.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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