Itzhak Perlman? Isabel Toledo? Simple Gifts? Huh?
During Tuesday's inauguration of President Barack Obama, people curious about unfamiliar references used Google to supply the footnotes for the ceremony. The phenomenon was visible on Google Trends, a service that shows which search terms are rapidly rising in use.
According to the U.S. results, Toledo, who designed First Lady Michelle Obama's dress, bubbled up to fifth place on the list earlier in the day. Once the ceremony began, up came violinist Perlman (ninth place), cellist Yo-Yo Ma (12th place), composer John Williams (26th place), and the variation on the Simple Gifts melody (14th place) that he wrote and the musicians played. Aretha Franklin rose up to third place for a time, too, and even "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" ranked 21st at one point.
People were curious about politicians, too--Sen. Dianne Feinstein made it as high as eighth place, and "Dick Cheney wheelchair" was 91st place.
More interesting, perhaps, is that in aggregate, every single one of the top 100 Google Trends searches were related to the inauguration on Tuesday. Many had to do with people's evident desire to find news about it or a place to watch a streaming video.
Update 7:39 a.m. PST January 21: See this Google blog post for some more details about the phenomenon. For instance, there was a lull in regular search in the United States while people watched the inauguration, and 12 percent of inauguration-related search queries came from outside the country.