[POOF] What if Google Disappeared?

Category: Cloud , Networking , Search-Engines

A recent tech kerfluffle involving a home-automation service first got me irritated because the media, again, inaccurately spun a story to create FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt). Then I got thinking, “What if this happened to something that matters, like Google?” Let's explore that thought...

Could You Survive If...?

Revolv is one of several startups that tried to outdo Nest in the “smart thermostat” and “home automation hub” markets. The company did well enough to be perceived as a threat, so Nest bought it in November 2014, no doubt using money acquired through Google’s acquisition of Nest. Now Nest is shutting down Revolv in May, and those who bought its hardware/service package are unhappy.

One Revolv owner, in particular, told everyone who would listen that Google plans to “brick” his Revolv thermostat, to “reach into” and disable it permanently. The tech press has run wild with this completely inaccurate story, creating fear of “home invasions” by Google and other IoT companies.

The truth is, Google/Nest just shut down the Web service that Revolv thermostats connect to in order to do their “smart” things. Nobody pushed a poison pill into anyone’s Revolv thermostat. The effect is the same - Revolv thermostats won’t work after May 15. But the Revolv hardware and the firmware it contains will remain; if someone can figure out how to reprogram them, they can function again.

If Google Disappears?

One media outlet erroneously claimed that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) would criminalize any attempt to resurrect a defunct Revolv device. As I explained in GRANTED: Permission to Tinker, Copy, and Explore the U. S. Copyright Office declared in November, 2015, that consumers are free to tinker with all but safety and entertainment-related software in the devices they buy. All Nest did is decide to stop supporting a product they are no longer making. The company is now figuring out how to compensate Revolv owners, which may take the form of Nest products, store credits, or cash.

That said, what if... instead of a trivial player like Revolv, a major Web service used by millions or billions of people suddenly went dark permanently, or even for an extended period of time? What would happen if Google glitched, or disappeared?

A World Without Google

First and foremost, untold millions of people would not be able to answer the nagging questions of the day, like "how many centimeters in a furlong?" or "how long to cook a one-inch steak on a charcoal grill?" Of course there would be Yahoo, Bing or some other search engine for general searches, but Google has been synonymous with search for so long, if Google Search disappeared or stopped working, for many people it would be the same as "The Internet is broken."

That leads to a more serious problem. Google's GMail has almost one BILLION users, all of whom would be extremely distressed if their email service and stored messages disappeared. Even when GMail hiccups for a few minutes, the effect is felt worldwide. The impact on business and productivity would be huge if GMail went down even for 24 hours.

And what about your stuff in the cloud? Google Docs and Google Drive store trillions of bytes of things that are precious to users -- documents, spreadsheets, homework assignments, irreplaceable photos, wills, contracts, and too much more to imagine.

Google Voice would be sorely missed by many mobile businesspeople, and by consumers who now save money with free voice and text messaging. It is particularly prized by international callers, who pay ridiculously low rates compared to traditional long-distance services.

Oh, and there's YouTube, which is owned and operated by Google. If YouTube went on the fritz, how would we get our fill of cat videos and people doing stupid things at weddings? Would we remember all of the 25 ways to wear a scarf? Yes, there's plenty of silly stuff on YouTube, but it's also a public treasure trove of "how-to" videos for people who want to learn how to fix cars, play an instrument, or solve a thousand common problems.

The Ripple Effect

And Maps. How would I navigate from Point A to Point B without Google Maps on my smartphone? There's a GPS in my car, but it wants to take me to Umatilla, Oregon when I'm trying to get to the Armadillo Cafe.

The Google Chrome web browser isn't an onlne service, per se, but it is the most popular browser in the world. If Google disappeared, Chrome probably wouldn't vanish in a blink. But it would quickly become outdated, and you'd have to switch back to Firefox or Internet Explorer.

AskBobRankin.com might not even be here if not for Google. In fact, a great many of your favorite free websites would quickly go dark if not for the ability to pay for expenses by virtue of having Google ads on their pages.

A Backup Plan?

I do use Google Search for a lot of things, but if I had to use Bing or Yahoo, of course I'd grin and bear it. (See my related article: The Other Search Engines.)

I do love GMail, but I use it as part of a redundant system of email delivery. My main email address is actually a forwarding service, which directs incoming messages to Gmail and a second inbox. So if Gmail went "poof" I'd still be able to send and receive emails. Of course, the 900 million people who use Gmail wouldn't be able to send anything to me, nor me to them.

If you don't want to use a forwarding service like Hover you can forward all your incoming Gmail messages to a second inbox with a filter. At least you'd have a way to access the emails already received.

As for Google Drive, I think it's fine to sync a folder on your computer with cloud storage, or use it as a limited backup. But if your only copy is online somewhere, you could be in trouble if you lose access to that service.

It’s hard to conceive of a world without Google. I'm sure I've only scratched the surface of what that might mean. What would you miss most if Google went away, and how would you react? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "[POOF] What if Google Disappeared?"

(See all 35 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

11 Apr 2016

If Google disappeared, it would quickly be replaced -- faster than most would expect. The need would drive the replacement. And former Google employees would create the startups with easy venture capital money. As if we would just roll over and just say, "Well, that was fun while it lasted." Life would go on. Just ask the dinosaurs.

Posted by:

11 Apr 2016

Don't use goggle. Never have. Never will.
I prefer NOT to spied on!

Posted by:

Frederick Collins
11 Apr 2016

Live without Youtube!? You're joking right? And how will I see debates from Australia or a debate between Prof Lennox and Dawkins at Oxford U?
Or all the music from Jesusculture and Hillsong?

Posted by:

anthony giambra
11 Apr 2016

What if Google disappeared without warning:

I would imagine there would be mass suicides/ attempted suicides of people that life's revolve around Google.

After great debate and mass demonstrations people will slowly start using other web search engines, email providers, and find alternative to everything that Google now offers.

In the distant future old people sitting in their rocking chairs will Fondly tell their grandchildren about "Google". Of course it will also be used as a answer on the jeopardy game show.

Posted by:

Robert Deloyd
11 Apr 2016

Does anyone remember MySpace???

Posted by:

Sharon H
12 Apr 2016

I don't mean to brag, but there was very little internet access when I went to college. I had to do all my research on my own--library, microfiche--you name it. Lugging six books home to go through and do my papers. Oh yes, and typing them on a typewriter. Still graduated first in class with a 4.0. Although I love Google, YouTube and all that the internet brings, I know I would survive without it. Miss it terribly? Of course. But then it would be like rediscovering things again.

Posted by:

12 Apr 2016

Funny that absolutely NONE of the posters have even mentioned the REVOLV debacle.
Of course their device is bricked. It's useless now.
Unless Google makes proper reparations for this, it becomes obvious why their previous motto of "Don't be evil" has been put to pasture.

Posted by:

Jay R
12 Apr 2016

How would I miss thee, Googol? Let me count the ways. On second thot, no. I have a few other things to do before I die. That's a pretty big number. I even Googled Googol to be sure about the spelling. (Waing for Bob to congratulate me.)

Posted by:

12 Apr 2016

I would really, really miss Google Scholar!

Posted by:

12 Apr 2016

The way things are going at Yahoo, we might get a small example of what might happen. They are not as pervasive as Google now, but I'd miss their email accounts. (I also backup locally)

Posted by:

Charles Harris
12 Apr 2016

And Google Books!!

Posted by:

12 Apr 2016

I guess YouTubers will be very happy.

Next I wish you should have asked the same question about Yahoo.

Posted by:

12 Apr 2016

A Google "epic failure" would be an inconvenience to me, but that is about all. I still use AOL for my e-mail and spend at least 4 hours a day with hard copy books and magazines. I NEVER use "cloud storage" and prefer WD external hard drives for my back-ups.

Now if the power grid failed (like it did in the Northeastern USA 20 - 30 years ago) I would be ... devastated! I don't own a home generator - yet!

Posted by:

Larry M
12 Apr 2016

What about Android? If Google were to go away Android would be impacted too.

Posted by:

Jim Stewart
12 Apr 2016

The world would adapt to an Internet without Google; it would take a long while. However, as long as you have opened the 'what if?' container consider What if electric power went out all over the world--and didn't come back on.

Posted by:

David Baker
13 Apr 2016

I really love their O/S! I use their Chromebooks, Tablets, and Phone. Yes, I would miss it. I would "sigh" and move on with life.

Posted by:

13 Apr 2016

I don't think Google could ever just vanish, it would be a slow, horrible, sad fade into obscurity, and it would provide enough time for people to jump onto the next, great, thing whatever it may be.

Posted by:

14 Apr 2016

Without Google...the world would be a better place.Who would use gmail? Why not just send all your personal info directly to Sergy and Larry? I don't need to "google" anything. There are other search programs that are just as good and don't spy on me and sell my search info, etc. I read that the CIA/other nefarious gov't agencies are behind Google - sounds preposterous? Maybe not. I just don't trust those b.......

Posted by:

14 Apr 2016

Sharon H. Me too, well, actually no internet when I went. Just wanted to point out though that now, libraries' collections are massively online... there are few that still use microfiche, and you can't get typewriter cartridges easily, because most of the companies have ceased making them... We would not easily be able to go back the way it was... because the companies that supported that way of life have also gone away. Surely, Google will be replaced by something even more amazing and on and on...

Posted by:

15 Apr 2016


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