[POOF] What if Google Disappeared?
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.
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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 11 Apr 2016
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- [POOF] What if Google Disappeared? (Posted: 11 Apr 2016)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved