Each phrase is either about bin Laden himself, his affiliations, his reign of terror, those who brought him to justice, related geography, or publications covering the event. Here is the list (U.S.) as of the time of this writing:
1. osama bin laden dead
3. navy seals
4. al qaeda
6. ground zero
7. president obama
8. al jazeera
9. new york times
10. twin towers
11. usa today
12. pakistan news
13. benazir bhutto
14. 9 11
16. washington post
I can't say for sure that this is the first time this has happened, but I've never witnessed such a domination of Google Trends by one topic. It's fascinating to see how Google has progressed in terms of its ability to deliver information in the time between the 9/11 attacks and the news of bin Laden's death. Danny Sullivan has a great piece looking at this progression, providing a screenshot of what Google.com looked like on the day of the attacks. it came accompanied with the following message:
"If you are looking for news, you will find the most current information on TV or radio. Many online news services are not available, because of extremely high demand. Below are links to cached copies of news sites as they appeared earlier today. "
It then provided a couple links to the Washington Post and CNN.com (cached). Things are obviously a bit different now. For one, we have Google News, Google Trends, and realtime search.
Social media has come a long way since then (remember back when this was not a well-known term?). Let's not downplay the roles of services like Facebook and Twitter in the spreading of the news. Last night, in the time leading up to Obama's announcement, many read about the news from an unlimited number of sources on Twitter and found insights both from strangers and from those whose voices they trust. Matt Rosoff at Business Insider says Twitter had its "CNN moment".
Just about everyone in my Facebook News feed was talking about it as well. I can only assume that most users had similar experiences.
One fascinating element of social media's role was made crystal clear, when a man unknowingly live tweeted the raid on bin Laden.
The whole thing simply shows how far the web has come as an information source in the last decade, particularly with the emergence of user-generated content and the realtime web.