What if Google Had a Blackout?

By Tim Cooley, a marketer for Coxcabledeals.com. Please see his articles following him on Twitter at @TimLCooley

To raise public awareness of legislation that might threaten the openness of the internet, Wikipedia and several other sites recently made themselves unavailable for 24 hours. Of course, some people quickly found a way around the block, and everyone else just waited until the sites returned.

But what if the internet suffered a real blow? How would things change if Google and Bing went down for 24 hours, and there wasn’t a way around the block?

If your first thought is to do your online searches through Yahoo!, you will run into another roadblock. Since 2010, Yahoo! searches are powered by Bing. Can you name any other search engine sites off the top of your head? You’re in trouble if you can’t – remember, there’s no way to search for them.

This exposes one of the most problematic fallouts. Most of us stopped learning web-addresses or bookmarking them several years ago. Why build a catalog for where to find things when you can search for them just as quickly? The next time you’re working online, notice just how often you type into your browser’s search bar. You’ll be surprised to learn how common and automatic it has become.

But losing search sites is only the tip of the iceberg. Google and Bing also provide extensive services in other areas, one of the most obvious being email—Gmail alone has 350 million users. Blacking out Gmail would certainly affect all these people, but it would also affect everyone trying to reach them. Multiplied outwards, email communication would quickly grind to a halt.

Another issue would come in when you try to access maps online or on your phone. The apps that run these maps on the iPhone or Android are done through Google Maps.

Most of the searches and YouTube videos embedded into websites would also quit working. You probably wouldn’t be disappointed when advertisements stopped working, but the economic fallout would be huge, because most websites rely on Google AdWords for their income. Even though few people realize it, huge numbers of websites depend on tools from Google and Bing to power their websites behind the scenes. Shut down the services of Bing and Google, and the problems would spread like a virus, affecting most of the internet.

So what would happen if Google and Bing shut down for 24 hours? Most likely, you would try to get a few things done and give up when everything took longer or didn’t work at all. At some point, you would shut your browser and try to find something else interesting to do.

So if we could weather the economic problems it would bring not to mention the frustration, maybe the blackout wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all. It might help us all take a needed reprieve and consider a few things that are more important—at least for 24 hours. If Google and Bing decided to take the day off I would rejoice and take a day of vacation!

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  1. steve from virginia

    Okay, I’m an ‘Internet content provider’ I produce a blog that has maybe five or six people who read it. Hurray for me!

    If Google fails for some reason, there are always other things to do with the day.

    Look at the Internet itself: it is offered as an evolutionary step away from paper production and brick-and-mortar stores. It’s more efficient, right?

    Mr. Internet gobbles 10% of US electricity for what return? It is an alternative to television. From an energy standpoint, Internet is doomed, it’s too complex and too dependent on energy- and debt subsidies to survive once it becomes necessary for our ‘stuff’ to become necessary.

    You know, food, clothing, shelter and things that matter, not Kim Kardashian’s tits.

    Content providers will have to find publishers and write books a-la Herman Melville. No Melville no publish. The crappy content provider will fade away into well-deserved obscurity. Me too?

    No problem, there is always something else to do with the day …

    1. F. Beard

      From an energy standpoint, Internet is doomed, it’s too complex and too dependent on energy- and debt subsidies to survive once it becomes necessary for our ‘stuff’ to become necessary. steve from virginia

      Disagree! All this gloom and doom and why? Because of unjust bookkeeping entries?

      Our problems are not lack of resources or technology or energy but lack of an ethical money system.

    2. rjs

      more likely, and few are prepared, that the power grid would go down for a week…losing google for a day would hardly be a inconvenience…

    3. scott

      It’s much more efficient to broadcast radio waves (once) for TV than to have millions of servers standing by so anyone can demand a show whenever they feel like it. Yes, energy efficiency will be the downfall of many of these services. It’s a matter of entropy.

    4. AliceS

      ★★★★★ My friends told me about—onenightcupid.c/0/m—. She told me it is the best place to seek casual fun and short-term relationship. I have tried. It is fantastic! Tens of thousands pretty girls and cute guys are active there. You wanna get laid tonight? Come in and give it a shot, you will find someone you like there. Have fun! -_-

  2. JCC

    I don’t believe that it would be nearly as devastating as Mr Cooley portrays here except to those who have no clue on how the Internet actually works and in turn, don’t put regular places they visit in their favorites (or just memorize the name – how tough is it to remember nakedcapitalism.com, wikipedia.com, maxkeiser.com, or amazon.com for example?)

    As for email, a few days without the 90% crap that comes in gmail would be no great loss. It’s almost as bad the the regular US Post Office mailbox nowadays, maybe worse.

    Bottom line, Google is primarily a search engine and an advertiser, not a top-level dns server. If it were, that might be a problem.

    As Steve from Virginia says, there are plenty of other things to do for a few days like… write a letter or two, mow the lawn, plant some roses, walk the dog, visit some friends, start up a poker game, read a book…

    1. Nathanael

      However, the SOPA/PIPA plan (perhaps being replicated in the secret and illegal ACTA talks) was to screw up the domain name system. Which would mean you’d need to know *numerical* Internet addresses. Who knows THOSE?

    2. Elizabeth

      I don’t relish the idea of losing the Internet, even temporarily. I think there’s something missing here in our inventory, a certain confidence in accessing information as a good thing that I can scarcely live without.

      Nonetheless, I am depressingly nostalgic for the ’70s these days. A place where people didn’t walk down the street with phones stuck to their ears, or iPods, or texting with their thumbs. A place where pop-up ads didn’t fly into your face everwhere — even in elevators. Remember going to your friend’s house and sharing a new album when it came out? I was invited to listen to “Queen: A Night at the Opera” and I was way ahead of the junior high school pop-culture curve for maybe a whole week. We had time to play basketball in the driveway after that — when is the last time you saw kids playing basketball in their driveways? A kind of eroticism played out in front yards, whether in a game of boys-against-the-girls “keep-away” or young lovers sharing a moment of lap-sitting on a lawn chair. And we thought that was the end of civilization as we knew it! Kids being amorous in public! Try kids being amorous in private, on the Internet, for a true pornographic shock. Everything is so disembodied nowadays. I’m just sayin’.

  3. different clue

    Well, my comment with two other search engine urls evaporated. So I will send a comment just naming them and the reader can imagine the “http://www.” before them and the
    ” .com” after them.

    So . . . alltheweb . . . . and . . . clusty.

  4. Boston Scrod

    What would be far more destabilizing than a (temporary) collapse of Google or the other search engine thingy would be a breakdown in DNS servers: those are the control programs run by Internet hosts that tell your computer it needs to go to the IP address when you want to visit nakedcapitalism.com. Since almost all websites (including nakedcapitalism.com) are hosted as virtual websites, without a functioning DNS server, even if you know the underlying numerical IP address, the website can’t be reached.

  5. Joe

    I find Google and Bing to be more and more useless as time passes. Because of the work I do, I am constantly searching for technical documentation and schematics. The results that Google and Bing deliver, increasingly lead to pages that satisfy the search terms but on examination only deliver advertising.

    The main function of any search engine now is to sell and deliver advertisements. I certainly can live without the Super Willy Loman crap for a day or two. I shudder at imagining what would happen if the search giants ever became the sole gatekeepers for academic research.

  6. Woodrow Wilson

    “So what would happen if Google and Bing shut down for 24 hours?” –

    A better question would be:

    “What if everything were shut down?”

    Why? After the “Obamney” elections are over, looting and pillaging will go back to full speed. The Banking Cartel, fresh off funneling record amounts of cash to Obamney will want their ROI from both Obamney and CONgress Members.

    How? Force Multiplier without a shot fired:

    10 shut down a City.
    30 shut down a County.
    300 shut down a State.

    Communication, Power and Commerce = New elections for Americans and the end of The Banking Cartels, with rope & lampposts for the sellouts & their enablers as a reminder to future generations their misdeeds will not go unpunished.

    Google & Bing is for children, and most will find how useless they really are in the working world and what they do (although I’m sure their own hubris makes them feel important). However, maybe more harsh language and OWS protesting will work!


    1. Elizabeth

      “What if everything shut down?”

      Isn’t that where we’re going with this, after all? Information, energy, infrastructure attacks, as acts of war, terrorism or internal suppression of dissent.

      It takes a lot of guts and insanity to order a nuclear attack on a superpower, but a lot of relatively powerless people in the world could orchestrate such a digital breakdown without generating a lot of advance curiosity from the intelligence community. Not to mention the powerful, who are doubtless working on it already, as in the “Internet kill switch” being, I heard, already with us as a presidential prerogative.

      In such a scenario, what about hospitals and medical technology? Transportation networks and their safety? Civil and military defense capabilities? The Y2K scare may have been unfounded, but it rested on a certain unconscious awareness of our vulnerability, don’t you think?

      It’s not a matter of if, but when.

      1. Jill

        I agree with both you, Elizabeth and Woodrow. The most likely perpetrator will be the US govt. even if they blame it on someone else. Everything we did overseas is returning for use in the US. I don’t mean blowback, although that will also come our way. I mean all the high tech surveillance, the destruction of infrastructure, the looting of cultural treasure and knowledge, the break down of civil society-it is all coming here. Iraq was their beta trial.

        1. Elizabeth

          I can even foresee that the government might shut down all or part of it, or interfere in some way, or spy on us all as a legitimate defensive move against that kind of terrorism. We’ll all be rightly angry about it, and cynical about the government’s motives, but it might be the only thing it can do. Sorting out the rights and wrongs there will be so difficult, secretive, and complex that we’ll just give up.

  7. Maju

    “Can you name any other search engine sites off the top of your head?”

    I have these in my search bar:
    https://startpage.com/ (supposedly ultra safe search)
    http://science.eccellio.com/ (for science searches only)

    And something called “Ask.com” but I never used it. Other specialist options I never used are The Pirate Bay (you know), The People Search Engine (searches for people, quite useless for me), EBay, Amazon, Twitter… Never use them really.

    “Most of us stopped learning web-addresses or bookmarking them several years ago”.

    Really? I bookmark all interesting pages. I have about a thousand bookmarks (mostly properly sorted in matriushka-like menus) and that’s been only in some two years (since my last general crash – two years, hmmm, Ubuntu is really stable nowadays).

    But the issue you raise is truly important. I happen to be overly dependent on Google: both my main email and all my blogs exist because of Google and that is a potential weakness. My account was temporarily shut off months ago and I eventually restored it in a matter of hours but with the robotic “client service” it was a nightmare. At that point I thought I might switch to WordPress but eventually I did not because of mere laziness.

    Yet, Google, don’t dare to fail me again or…

  8. chasd00

    I would just use duckduckgo.com or yahoo.

    sheesh google has done a good job equating itself with the Internet.

  9. Jill

    DARPA began the internet and it will end it for the proletariat as it sees fit. Therefor I hope the open source geeks devise an new internet that the govt. does not so easily control. Google and most other search engines/sms sites seem designed to help private companies/the govt. to monitor what we are doing and use that information for their benefit.

    I agree with Elizabeth that the internet is useful and she misses the human interaction that occurred before this type of technology became so prevelant. OWS shows the importance of real conversations and face to face inter/actions.

    1. Elizabeth

      Thanks for the compliment! Sometimes I have to remember, however, that I can still have face-to-face and telephone interactions with people I meet online–not just the singles ads, by the way, which are only a small portion of the forums in which people can connect. I would never have known about these people before, let alone their points of view and our value to each other. I can still choose to continue the encounter in real space; I just can’t choose how other people use or neglect that space, the culture. . . . Someone posted a photograph of a parade that happened in my hometown in 1968, and it was just glorious, that kind of in-person, do-it-yourself spectacle. And I’m connecting to it on, duh, the Internet.

  10. Cal

    Firefox has a great system to keep track of bookmarks.

    I have ten bookmark catagories across the top of my browser and descending from each if I click on it is a list of about forty bookmarks. So, I have 400 sites listed.

    The advantage of Firefox is that you can drag the bookmarks into any position relative to others in the list and you can delete them from the URL bar.

    Also, with Ad Block Plus, a free add on, I never ever see any ads or popups–unless I allow them, which is possible to a fine degree–say in this site.

    With Google’s new doomsday announcement that it will fold everything they know about you into one commercial product for sale *YOU*, perhaps it’s time to look up some other people with the same or similar names as yours, their stret address, email phone etc, and to use those in your emails and any other Google function, just to confuse the database and maintain privacy through a tidal wave of conflicting information.

  11. Kunst

    50 years ago, we had essentially no computers. Today, nothing functions without them. If the electricity grid went down, or all the computers went down, or probably even if the internet went down, and stayed down, out economy and society and population would collapse. We depend on very powerful but ultimately rather fragile technology for our very lives.

  12. JamesD

    Add “Track Me Not” to Firefox. It sends 10 or so ridiculous search requests to Google, bing, and yahoo an hour.

  13. Fiver

    Losing Google completely would not be a disaster. We can still undo the damage. But losing the Internet altogether, having so stupidly made it key infrastructure for the global economy, would spell instant Depression and maybe worse.

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