The Zeitgeist is "the spirit of time." This is why when we come up with the lists of top searches on for 2006, we do not simply retrieve the most frequently-searched terms for the period -- the truth is, they don't change that much from year to year. This list would be predominated by very generic searches, such as "ebay", "dictionary", "yellow pages," "games," "maps" -- and of course, a number of X-rated keywords. These are constants, and although unquestionably popular, we don't think they actually define the Zeitgeist.

Instead, we looked for those searches that were very popular in 2006 but were not as popular in 2005 -- the explosive queries, the topics that everyone obsessed over. To come up with this list, we looked at several thousand of 2006's most popular searches, and ranked them based on how much their popularity increased compared to 2005. ("Bebo", for example, had very little traffic in 2005.) We also gave a bit higher score to searches with more traffic. Similarly, our "what is" and "who is" lists are not necessarily the absolute most frequent searches, but rather those that best represent the passing year.

A final note: there was some confusion over the use of descriptors like "most popular" and "fastest-gaining" in media reports about our Zeitgeist. We've edited the 2006 Year-End Zeitgeist description to be more accurate on this point: "we compared frequent queries this year against 2005 to see what sorts of things were top of mind."

We hope you enjoyed our year-end Zeitgeist as much as we enjoyed working on it!