Time is taking flak today for choosing Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, as its “Person of the Year.” The critics don’t dispute Zuckerberg’s accomplishments, of course, but to many it seems as if Time intentionally overlooked the achievements of Julian Assange, the embroiled head of whistle-blowing site Wikileaks, in order to escape controversy. The Slate Group’s editor-in-chief, Jacob Weisberg, called the Zuckerberg nod “gutless,” and Forbes suggests that Assange is too “bad” to earn the Person of the Year distinction.
But while the media hashes out its favorites, what do the hoi polloi think?
Time readers, of course, overwhelmingly picked Assange as Person of the Year (Zuckerberg came in 10th), though the educated, aged, affluent demographic that reads Time hardly represents the opinions of the vast majority of the global population. Rather, I would suggest looking at what people are consuming online as a better metric for who’s captured the world’s interest in 2010. And what better place to do that than Google.
If we’re picking Person of the Year based solely on an increase in Google searches for them from 2009 to 2010, the most important person of the last 12 months is Justin Bieber, the teen pop star behind hits like “One Less Lonely Girl.” The first, second, and third runners up are Katy Perry, Selena Gomez, and Kim Kardashian, respectively. Neither Assange nor Zuckerberg breaks the top 10.
If we filter for just the most popular searches in America, once again, neither Assange nor Zuckerberg is anywhere to be found in the top 10 people category. But now the top four, in order, are Justin Bieber, Kesha, Wiz Khalifa, and Nicki Minaj.
The most popular new search term overall? “IPad.” Steve Jobs wins again.
For a full rundown of what was on the minds of the world this year, go to Google Zeitgeist.