This is the mother of all what-ifs. It’s a post-apocalyptic scenario for the Internet that we shudder to even consider.
And that is exactly why we must consider it. Given how Google-centric the Internet is, what would happen if this behemoth were to disappear from the virtual and real world tomorrow?
Would that even be possible? If Google ever fell on bad times, would it be allowed to fail? Let’s assume for the sake of this article that it does disappear. By Google disappearing we mean it ceasing to be, or sinking as a company. Imagine one fine day you wake up and find that there is no Google, or any of its services that have been your daily drivers for years.
What if there was no Google?
There would be a lot of shock and awe. Disbelief and mourning. Some might even predict the end of the Internet. But realistically, how would it affect consumers and businesses?
To say it would have far-reaching consequences would be an understatement. Here’s a mix of positive and negative scenarios that come to mind.
Internet search will go topsy-turvy
Though Google isn’t the only search engine out there, but it is certainly the most prevalent. We don’t say, “Search it,” we say, “Google it.” And that tells you everything.
After the initial shock has subsided and we don’t have any more Chrome shortcuts on our desktops to click on, we’ll discover there are other search engines too.
Yahoo! Bing. Baidu. Ask. They were there all this time.
As per the latest statistics, Google owns 64.4% of the market share in the US; Bing 19.8%; Yahoo 12.8%; Ask 1.8%, and AOL 1.1%.
We will flock to other search engines. We will continue to find nice places nearby to eat and new movies to check out, though we wouldn’t know how reliable the search results would be.
We will likely see a marked rise in spammy results though, a return to pre-Google days. Google has been very strict with websites that have tried to trick its search function in order to rise to the top. Would the other search engines be as effective?
A new search leader will emerge
We can expect the competition to intensify. New players will enter the arena, which will be good news for smaller businesses.
From within this churning, eventually a new search leader will emerge. If Google goes out of business, its employees will look for work elsewhere, and some corporate or the other will buy out their secrets and/or prop up a search engine to exploit Google’s erstwhile intellectual property for all its worth.
Either that, or bright minds working at other search companies will come up with their own algorithms to give us something similar to what we have been used to with Google. They might even give us something better. This, however, will take a long time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was Google. But we are pretty confident something good will come out of this.
Businesses will suffer heavily (Temporarily)
All businesses who have taken digital marketing seriously will be hit hard, especially the smaller ones. On top of paid advertising, they have invested a lot on optimizing their content for Google search, have revised their approach each time Google hit us with new updates, and have poured their heart and soul into creating content that Google would deem worthy of being ranked.
Where would all of that be when the Almighty disappears?
Would their business information and content show up on other search engines? Would they still be found by millions out there?
They would still be found, yes, but not by as many people. Other search engines will pick them up, though there’s no guaranteeing their ranking. Thank God for competition, right?
This development may shut down businesses around the world, especially those dedicated to improving SEO for websites based on Google feedback. Have you ever met an SEO developer wondering how to rank a website higher on Bing? We thought not. We could be looking at a lot of immediate unemployment (even if short-term).
Data losses would be huge
Companies and individuals have saved a ton of data to Google’s Cloud services — from Google Docs, to Google Drive, to Photos and Picasa. All those virtual machines on Compute Engine? Vanished! We are looking at losses running into billions of dollars if these services ceased to exist.
Companies that rely heavily on Google tools might even go out of business.
Traditional methods of marketing will see a boost
Google’s disappearance will shake people’s faith in the world of online advertising, and it won’t be easily restored.
For local businesses especially, traditional marketing will regain its lure. It’s tangible and worked reliably well for many years.
Email marketing, publishing in magazines and newspapers, handing out flyers on the roadside, cold calling, appearing on radio or TV – all of these will seem more important than tweaking your website for SEO.
Small businesses that have struggled with SEO may even have a collective sigh of relief upon Google’s passing. Now they won’t have to worry about accidentally creating bad links or losing sleep over another animal-inspired update that could hit them from nowhere.
Small businesses may become more competitive
This is a double-edged sword. Some businesses would lose a lot of money, but others may find it easier to compete against the established players who just had the rug pulled out from under them.
Google’s method of ranking keywords means the entry barriers for new businesses are pretty high. Top results are usually dominated by websites with high domain authority. Of course, we don’t quite know how exactly search engines rank websites, since each has its own algorithm, but with Google search gone it’s safe to assume smaller players might start feeling more optimistic about their chances in the digital world. After all, the world will move to newer search engines. The ranking game might start a new, which means a fresh start for all.
Until a new digital order is established, small businesses won’t have to match the budget of the bigger companies in order to attract audiences online. Traditional marketing spend would increase and lots of small companies could become major players in niche markets.
Android will go under or be bought out
The latter is a more probable scenario. It’s unlikely that big smartphone makers (Samsung and co.) would let Android go under along with Google. There’s just so much riding on Android for the mobile device business that its demise may never come to pass. As of now, Android holds 82.8% of the smartphone OS global market share, as opposed to 13.9% of the market held by iOS.
Our guess is a wealthy, business-savvy individual will buy it out. But even if no one buys it out, and it is allowed to die, phone makers will boost efforts to create their own mobile software. Samsung will push Tizen aggressively, Nokia will jump into the fray, and Microsoft will finally have hope for Windows smartphones. Blackberry OS may come back from the dead!
My phone would stop working though. And so would that of hundreds of millions of Android users worldwide. We’d have to fish out our old thick-as-a-brick Nokia phones or buy new cheap Windows phones for temporary relief. Companies will close their Android app development divisions or put new projects on hold indefinitely. The app developers may have to look elsewhere to make a living.
Apple, however, will have a field day, at least in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Google Empire.
If people are in the market for a new phone, the iPhone would very likely be their first choice. Who wants to bet on an uncertain future, after all? However, this might mean that we could be looking at the monopoly of another OS in the market, which is unfortunate.
YouTube will survive
This is wishful thinking on our part. YouTube is too popular to not exist. It’s not just popular, it tugs at the heartstrings of hundreds of millions of Internet users worldwide.
It’s a straightforward concept – uploading videos to a platform and sharing them with friends. It was doing extremely well even before Google bought it, so it owes its success to its fans and not necessarily Google. We are very confident it will survive and continue to flourish. The fans won’t let YouTube die.
Social media marketing will become even more important
Facebook and Twitter might become more prominent places for businesses to get noticed. They are already important but will become even more so when there’s no Google for businesses to display local information on.
All social networks will see increased marketing activity. A good presence on social media boosts your search results. Regardless of which search engine businesses choose to rank high on, their robust social media presence will prove to be of great help in general.
The stock market will tumble and recover
As happens with any earth-shattering news (and even non-earth shattering news), the stock markets will react dramatically to the fall of Google. Rich people will lose millions of dollars as Google’s stock tumbles or is wiped out, and triggers a domino effect among tech shares in general. The overall economy would soon be infected with gloom, and the madness would spread across the world like wildfire.
We can even expect a statement from the White House, seeking to assure us that they are doing everything possible to restore calm and sanity in the world, digital and non-digital.
It may take a few months or even years, but the stock market will recover as the digital world adjusts to Google’s fall.
Productivity will suffer in offices globally
When you are used to doing things a certain way, and when that way is no longer valid or available, you have to look at other tools to help you. This is a time-consuming process. Businesses will be faced with the prospect of a) finding replacement tools that are as reliable or efficient as those that Google provided, and b) teaching their workforces to use them to the best of their ability.
This is not going to be the smoothest of transitions, so don’t be surprised if you encounter delays in all kinds of services.
Darknet will flourish
Google had democratized information by making the best of it available to anyone with Internet access. Never before in the history of mankind had we seen such dissemination of information. If Google’s successor, or search engines that gain popular acceptance in the wake of its demise, do not follow in Google’s footsteps, it’s likely that prized information will move underground – that dark place of the Internet.
Brave new world
It will be a different world without Google. It won’t be like 1999, however, when Google first came onto the scene. We are all tremendously rich for having Google in our lives. And while that makes us grateful, it also makes us ponder on the dangers of relying so much on one company.
It will be happy days for some, bad days for others, but most of us will move on and eventually get used to life without Google. The Internet would still be useful. The trains would still run. The planes would still fly and perhaps new, greater technologies would emerge. And your coffee would still taste as good. We are not sure about your phone still working though.
If your employer is particularly hard hit by the disappearance of Google, you might have to look for work elsewhere. But that may not necessarily be a bad thing. If you’re talented, you should get picked up soon, or you could become an entrepreneur yourself.
What are your views on the matter? What if there is no Google to do your searches? How do you think you’d be impacted if Google suddenly ceased to be? Should businesses have contingency plans for a post-Google world? Or are we just overthinking this? Tell us what this article made you think!