A rare thing happened two days ago. A very rare thing. Google went offline.
Not just Gmail, Drive or YouTube but everything. Even Google.com was absent for the first time in recent memory. Granted, the problem was rectified quickly, the outage only lasted between 1 and 5 minutes (costing Google around $500m) but what’s more telling is the effect it had on web traffic. Web analytics firm GoSquared estimated that there was roughly a 40% drop in web traffic during the blackout.
While we all know Google, for many, is the web, that’s still an exceptional footprint. Yes, YouTube and Search are the biggest players but should Goog’s properties really account for 2 out of every 5 web visits worldwide?
Not only does it illustrate their sheer dominance but also the reliance users have upon them.
Contrary to that old phrase, we don’t ‘surf the web’. We search the web. We are task-oriented, query by query as we go around finding what we’re looking for. Do you type ‘ebay.com’ or just whack ‘Ebay’ into search and throw in a click? As for Android/Chrome, use voice and you’re asking it to search Google, use the browser and the address bar defaults to search. Same for default web search on iOS.
There’s a simple reason for it too, it works. We’ve grown accustomed to how Google search works – just type and go, if we’re looking for a video it’s probably on YouTube right? If you want it, Google will find it for you. Bear in mind there’s a dependency, we are partially responsible as we have helped make Google what it is and they are very eager to keep us with them and serve us more of their results, their own products, services and, most importantly, their adverts.
Like it or not, Google are the web’s gatekeepers.
Not for everyone, but they have a stake like no other.
Regardless, when Google goes down it takes an awful lot of us with it. Is that good for the web?
Probably not but equally, it has helped shape how we see the Internet today and, rare outages aside, that most likely won’t change any time soon.
Not if Google can help it.