Last week part of the UK could not access most of Googles properties. I was one of them. The disruption lasted for an hour or so from what I can remember.
I am not sure where the problem was – if it was Google or some kind of internet backbone that failed – to be honest I don’t really care – the point of this post is to highlight the impact of that outage.
This outage got me thinking. Now keep in mind that it was just Google sites that were inaccessible.
The impact was absolutely staggering.
- Could not access www.google.co.uk – 90% of my work is related to search results. Major Impact for me. Our clients who pay to advertise, our clients who achieve stellar search rankings… etc etc.
- I could not access email – not sure if this was me but I use gmail extensively and google calendar etc – Fairly major impact when you have clients emailing you etc.
- Every, that is 100%, absolutely every website I visited in that outage period did not load correctly. Why:
- They were using Google Analytics on their site (Google Analytics relies on websites communicating with Googles Servers – which at this point were not accessible).
- They were using Google Adsense to monetise the site with adverts.
- They were using Google Ad Planner as the advert management platform.
Ok, so on the surface this does not appear to be a huge deal. But lets really think about this for a moment.
If the outage was prolonged. A massive proportion of websites would have been affected.
They would have lost revenue. An hours worth of issues most companies can suck up, but a days worth of revenue, a week?
Our reliance on Google as web entrepreneurs is absolutely colossal.
We rely on Google for the majority of our traffic. Without traffic no commerce takes place. We rely on Google to serve relevant adverts on our pages (publishing sites / news sites etc), we rely on Google for our statistics regarding what is profitable and what is not. We rely on Google for email communications (well several million of us do anyway).
Web businesses are now responsible for employing millions and millions of people from small one or 2 person e-commerce shops to larger businesses like play.com, amazon.com etc. not to mention a lot of mid range news sites and other publishers.
Of course I am not stating that Google is responsible for all of these employees but even the big brand websites that have a captive audience of returning customers would be severly impacted if their Google traffic went away.
So indirectly Google is responsible for the livelihood of millions of people.
Why. They build good products. Everyone wants to use them and for the most part they should.
But do they have too much leverage?
If Google controls the traffic (generalisation), controls the advertising, controls the statistics and analytics, controls the communcation (email and soon to be voice), will soon control the ads we see on TV (my guess) – couple this with the enormous amount of data they hold on pretty much every customer that uses their service and you have a goliath that has more control than most of us would be comfortable with.
If you then add in to the equation that Google can stop web traffic at will – either through change of algoithms, banning sites, throttling traffic etc.
There really is no point to this post other than my observations, but to me this is getting very, very scary and diversification is the order of the day. Traffic diversification, tool diversification, monetisation diversification.
If Microsoft got in trouble for bundling internet explorer with Windows surely Googles power is ten fold of that.
Having said all of that – fair play to Google. The have created something really, really powerful that many entrepreneurs can only dream of replicating.