PALO ALTO, California (Reuters) - The art of trend-spotting is set to take a more scientific turn as Google Inc., the world's top Web search company, on Tuesday unveils a service to track the fastest-rising search queries.
Google Hot Trends combines elements of Zeitgeist and Trends -- two existing Google products that give a glimpse into Web search habits, but only in retrospect based on weeks-old data.
Hot Trends, a list of the current top-100 fastest-rising search trends, will be refreshed several times daily, using data from millions of Google Web searches conducted up to an hour before each update, the company said.
What's hot and what's not will be knowable to the masses in ways pioneering social philosophers could never have imagined.
"There are events going on all the time that most of us aren't aware of happening," Amit Patel, a Hot Trends software engineer and an early Google employee, said in an interview.
From news to gossip, the profound to the truly inane: baffled Google users seek the meaning of the phrase "motion to recommit" in the latest congressional debate, or search the phrase "I who have nothing" -- the title of a song sung by a recent contestant on televised competition "American Idol."
And watch how the Web generation cuts corners: Each night before a national college entrance examination, Google sees heavy searches from what appears to be high-school students making last-minute preparations ahead of the test, Patel said.
TOP OF THE TOP OF THE POPS
For years, Google has compiled a list of popular searches it calls Google Zeitgeist, offering a weekly, monthly or annual retrospective look back at what its users wanted to know.
Hot Trends updates and automates this process by giving a contemporary snapshot of what is on people's minds -- at least as reflected by what goes through Google Web search each day.
Each Hot Trends response shows not just links to potentially related sites, but also links to associated Google News stories and blog searches, providing added context.
"After we find what trends that are interesting, users will want to know why are they important?" Patel said. "We are helping you find an explanation: There is some investigation that has to be done by the user."
The experimental service also allows users to select specific dates to see what the top-rising searches were at a given point in the recent past, starting in mid-May.
The Mountain View, California-based company is also introducing changes to its existing Google Trends service, which offers charts and other data to see how a trend evolves over time or how it compares to other trends over time.
Now, in addition to viewing the top countries and cities that searched for a term, users can see how search habits around a particular trend vary from region to region in the United States, as well as across 70 different countries.
For example, political junkies can track Google search patterns for particular U.S. presidential candidates by state.
Hot Trends, at www.google.com/trends/, finds the fastest-rising trends instead of the most-popular topics, which search experts say still centers around sex, sex and more sex. Hot Trends screens "inappropriate language" and pornography.