By Dr. Ben Silverstone
Over the years, Google’s services have come to be extremely pervasive and most people will make use of them at some point. This means that if they were all to fail, there would be a significant short term impact. Most of the services provided are already replicated elsewhere, but it would require a conscious effort on the part of users to seek out alternatives.
Arguably the most well-known of Google’s services, so much so that the term “to Google” something is now common vernacular for looking for information on the internet.
If this service were to shut down entirely then, arguably, anyone over the age of 30 would possess the skills required to find the information they need, just as they did prior to the explosion of internet searching. However, the tools that were used to undertake such research are no longer easily available. Libraries have cut back on the holding of reference books, the Yellow pages is no longer three inches thick and full of the contact details for every local service imaginable, and families no longer have a copy of Encyclopaedia Britannica in pride of place on their shelves.
Besides this, there would also be a significant impact on businesses that use Google as their primary vehicle for advertising products and services. But despite all the potential negative impacts, it is worth bearing in mind that there are alternatives to Google, such as Bing and Yahoo.
Another large impact would come from the disappearance of the Gmail service.
As well as personal email, Google provides business email solutions, meaning that there would be a significant number of users that would no longer have access to their professional and personal email accounts. This would have an impact on the profitability of a number of businesses. Advertising is also sold through this medium, so those businesses that use Gmail adverts as a significant part of the marketing activities would be impacted.
Aside from the inconvenience aspect, there are also security concerns to be addressed. While the accounts would not be accessible, they would still sit somewhere on Google servers. Users would not know whether or not accounts had been deleted, and whether or not the contents of emails would continue to be protected. Hackers may still be able to access accounts unless the connections to storage had been severed by the outage.
Google Maps power a number of different applications and many websites use plugins to display maps which are provided by Google services. Google also have a well-developed satellite navigation system which would be unavailable for all users. There are alternatives in this case, but Google Maps is arguably the most developed of the mapping systems currently available online, and is the back end to a number of popular mapping sites.
As well as providing the operating system for mobile phones and tablets, Google’s Android system can also be found in TVs, set top boxes, and internet connected devices in the home and even in cars. The software itself is standalone and while it does connect to Google servers to provide a number of services, if Google was to disappear overnight, it would not render the devices useless. Internet connectivity and calls on mobile phones, while making use of operating systems, are routed through phone networks and would therefore still function. However, Google services such as Gmail, Drive, Maps and Play would cease to function, which would significantly reduce the usefulness of the devices.
There are obviously legitimate concerns over the data that Google holds and what would happen to it while the services are not active. On the other hand, the amount of data Google collects on users is huge and this collection would stop. Data on location is collected and used to provide recommendations to users and any device that runs Google applications now has a piece of software called AnalyticsSDK installed, which monitors usage and reports directly back to Google.
Although we agree to this as a part of the terms and conditions, most people don’t really appreciate the extent to which it occurs.
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