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Updated Dec 11, 2023, 7:10pm EST
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Semafor Signals

What the world wanted to know in 2023, as revealed by Google Search

A dish of traditional South Korean bibimbap
Wikimedia Commons/abex
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The News

Google has unveiled its annual Year in Search list for 2023, showing the news topics, people, and media that led global search trends this year.

“War in Israel and Gaza” was the No. 1 trending news topic across the world, ahead of the Titan submersible implosion, the earthquakes in Turkey, the war in Ukraine, and several U.S. shootings.

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Beyond crises, Google’s report reveals the lighter side of what captured the world’s attention this year, from pop hits and recipes to celebrities and video games.

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In a year of geopolitical turmoil, the fate of five rich people gripped the world, with the term “Titanic submarine” outpacing any other news search besides the Israel-Hamas War. Compared with global tragedies such as the migrant crisis, it seemed to command outsized attention. But ”the fate of daring millionaires seems closer to us than that of people fleeing a war,” an op-ed in Scientific American argued, in a piece asking why a migrant boat that capsized around the same time as the submersible with hundreds on board went virtually ignored. The fascination with the Titan incident could also reflect a generation of social media users’ disdain towards the ultra-wealthy. “When rich and privileged people run into trouble or behave badly and get caught, we feel better,” psychologist Pamela B. Rutledge wrote in Psychology Today.

The searches illustrate how the global music industry is becoming less U.S.-centric. The top trending song this year was アイドル (which translates as “Idol”) by the Japanese duo Yoasobi. It topped the Japanese charts for 21 weeks and marked the “true international breakout for modern J-pop,” according to The Japan Times. Also making the top five: country singer Jason Aldean’s controversial song Try That in a Small Town; a Latin electro-pop banger from Shakira; and a viral K-pop track.

Korean culture is still riding high, with “bibimbap” the trendiest global recipe. The dish of crispy rice, meat, and pickled and fresh vegetables was particularly popular in India, where the term made up a higher proportion of searches than in any other country. As one Indian food writer predicted in January, “the Korean food craze is at a high” due to the surge in popularity of other Korean cultural staples such as K-dramas and K-pop.

One important caveat: Google lists aren’t focused on absolute popularity in search, but rather what was deemed “trendiest” in 2023 compared to 2022. For example, more people searched for newly crowned Time Person of the Year Taylor Swift this year than Jason Aldean, but Aldean saw a greater spike in interest compared with in 2022, so he made the top musicians list, while Swift was left on the bleachers. “Top trending lists make for more colorful and interesting data pulls and are generally better at identifying what people were curious about in 2023 relative to 2022,” a Google spokesperson told Gizmodo.

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