On Saturday 31st January 2009 at around 14:40 UTC something “historical” happened. Google virtually stopped working. It might as well died. Every single search result was marked with “This site may harm your computer.”. And it redirected you to a warning page.
Of course this was probably because of some bug in their harmful content detection software or a failed upgrade or something similar. I doubt it was a virus. It doesn’t really matter why but for an hour I was forced to use Live search. Yahoo was just too much typing in the address bar. :)
However this brings on an interesting thought. What would happen if this search outage happened on a Wednesday which is usually the busiest week day. This would result in huge loss of revenue and traffic for everyone. If we just take a look at this blog: 95% of all traffic comes from Google searches. Yep… that’s 95% !! And others have pretty much the same deal. You do the numbers for other sites that have several tens of thousands of users per day. This was a worldwide failure. USA, Central and South America, Europe and Asia (I haven’t talked with anyone from the African continent). You name it, it failed.
And the best thing is that Google only provides a service you’re not committed to using so you can’t do anything about your lost revenue. And as much fun as this brought to people imagine the consequences on a larger scale.
Today around 1.5 billion people use the internet. Of them on average 70% use Google Search. That’s a bit over 1 billion people. So let’s make a really pessimistic estimate that each of those people spend $1 per day on the internet. They spend it because they found something they wanted to buy. Using equal hourly distribution for the day (earth spins :) and Google was down 1 hour) we get little less than $42 million loss. And remember that’s just for $1 per person per day. There are no real statistics I could find on this but i wouldn’t be surprised if the real estimate was 10 times higher. Some might argue that people would just go search somewhere else. Wrong. If you’re reading this then you’re not an average internet user. An average internet user is set in their way. if something doesn’t work they go away and forget about it.
I know Google’s slogan is Don’t be evil, but still… are you sure about that? Are you prepared to be totally dependent on them? What can you do about it? I know I have no clue, do you? They still provide me with 95% of traffic :)
On to Live search. I have to say that they’re improving. I actually found what i was looking for there.
But change is hard. It’s interesting to see how my eye and arm/mouse movements are synced with Google’s search layout. It simply hurts to switch. Ok… it doesn’t hurt but it’s still annoying.
Which begs the question: “Why change your search engine at all?” I know I have no other reason then when the primary one fails.
Search results were pretty much the same now that I can cross reference them on Google. Therefore if Microsoft has any plans to steal people form Google they’ll have to have some added value in their search. I have no clue as to what that might be, but I’m not a marketing guru. :)
And of course here’s a picture to prove the “historical” event for posterity with a bit of irony: