What the Trend?'s Top 50 Twitter Topics of the Year

The Year in Tweets: From Google Wave to 'New Moon' to Michael Jackson to Tiger Woods

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Back in May, I conducted the first interview -- "The Twuth About Twitter Twends Revealed (by Brit Living in Shanghai)" -- with a young technologist named Matt Mayer who'd created a very clever site called What the Trend? (the question mark is an official part of the name, but for the sake of readability, I'll exclude it henceforth). Speaking via Skype from China, Mayer filled me in on the genesis and functionality of his service, which offers brief, crowdsourced explanations of the often mystifying memes that constantly pop up on the Twitter "trending topics" chart. It remains completely indispensable for anybody trying to make sense of Twitter.

Michael Jackson came in at 3 on What the Trend's year-end list.
Michael Jackson came in at 3 on What the Trend's year-end list. Credit: AP
Mayer and I have stayed in touch, and he recently informed me that he was selling What the Trend. Today, I can tell you that Mayer's creation has been formally acquired by a U.S. investor group. Start-up veteran Ingo Muschenetz (he was CTO at DefenseWeb, later acquired by Humana, and headed development at Aptana Studio, a web app-development company) has been named CEO and President of What the Trend.

I spoke with Muschenetz yesterday, and he debriefed me about What the Trend's ambitious plans to expand the service with new functionality and partnerships. (Stay tuned.) He also gave me background on the creation of the first annual What the Trend Twitter Zeitgeist chart. You've likely seen similar year-end charts -- including the 2009 Year-End Google Zeitgeist, Yahoo's 2009 Year in Review: Top 10 Searches and Microsoft's Top Bing Searches in 2009 -- as well as Twitter's own category-specific seven-part list of Top 10s

Muschenetz explained What the Trend's unique approach to parsing the year's trends: "We looked at the occurrence of every term that reached the Top 20 trending topics for every hour of every day of 2009, ranking both the height of popularity it achieved, and then the length of time it stayed as a trending topic." He argues that What the Trend's year-end list offers a fuller, more accurate picture of Twitterers' obsessions -- and in fact avoids the blind spots of some other lists. For instance, he notes, "It seems almost inconceivable that the Iran elections aren't on the Google list."

Without further ado, the What the Trend?/Twitter Zeitgeist 2009, presented here as a barebones list. But I encourage you to check out the heavily annotated list, which appears on What the Trend's site here (some adjustments in ranking may occur today and through the end of 2009, as the list remains dynamic).

  1. #iranelection
  2. #musicmonday
  3. Michael Jackson
  4. Google Wave
  5. New Moon
  6. Follow Friday
  7. Halloween
  8. Paranormal Activity
  9. Harry Potter
  10. TGIF
  11. BBC
  12. BBQ
  13. Swine Flu
  14. District 9
  15. Susan Boyle
  16. Star Trek
  17. Snow Leopard
  18. Lakers
  19. #SxSW
  20. American Idol
  21. Glee
  22. Adam Lambert
  23. Easter
  24. Watchmen
  25. True Blood
  26. Dollhouse
  27. #openwebawards
  28. Goodmorning
  29. Lady GaGa
  30. Kobe
  32. Nfl
  34. Wolverine
  35. CNN
  36. AIG
  37. Bruno
  38. Thanksgiving
  39. Oprah
  40. Mexico
  41. SUMMER
  42. Chris Brown
  43. SNL
  44. Palm Pre
  45. MIAMI
  46. Paris
  47. California
  48. Transformers 2
  49. MW2
  50. CES

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Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco

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