What Would Happen if Google Experienced a Major Outage?

What happens when Google goes down.


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Answer by Ashish Kedia, web solutions engineer at Google:

In August 2013, Google and all of its services came down for two to three minutes. Internet traffic as a whole went down by a massive 40 percent. A similar incident occurred in May 2009.

Note that these events were just for two minutes. Imagine if it had been for 30 minutes. It’s highly unlikely, but if it did, here is what I think would happen.

During the first few minutes of the outage, people will check their internet connections. Some will even call their ISPs. Those who are tech savvy may check for hardware failures on their side (which is more likely than a 30-minute outage on Google’s end).

Finally, people will begin to realize that Google is actually down. There will be a period of disbelief, because Google has a history of being so stable. Assuming the outage will be as brief as it was in 2009 and 2013, they will desperately try to reload Google’s home page.

All around the world, users will be taking screenshots of the Google server error page (likely a 500 error). Your Facebook news feed will be flooded with posts like, “OMG I can’t believe it!” and “I witnessed something astonishing today—Google is down!” along with several of the aforementioned screenshots.

People will begin looking for an alternate search engine—but how? Some people don’t even know that there are alternate search engines. Those who do will provide Bing and Yahoo with a huge traffic surge.

DuckDuckGo, a search engine that doesn’t track your browsing habits, will start trending on Twitter. People will realize it’s good. Many other internet applications that use Google services as a back end will also come down. Without access to Gmail for 30 minutes, productivity across the whole world will drop by a huge margin. I can’t even imagine the revenue loss—not just for Google, but for all the companies throughout the world that rely on Google. Android users will be stranded on the roads, and iPhone users who rely on Google Maps will be lost in the lanes. Oddly enough, internet life in China will remain unaffected.

People at Google’s competitors will rejoice and sing songs (I kid, I kid).

After what seems like forever, the outage will be fixed and services are restored. Google will issue a press release, explaining the cause (maybe). Tech savvy people around the world will try to dig deep in search of the cause of outage. Many will speculate that a group of hackers are responsible. People will then approach many high-profile hackers for their opinions.

The media will go crazy. They will call experts and try to analyze the situation themselves. Bloggers will write posts about how we are “too dependent” on Google. They’ll call it a reality check. Quora will be full of questions related to the outage, like “Why did the Google outage happen?” and “Is it true that Google was hacked?”

A lot of users will talk about switch from Google services to alternatives. Some will actually do it, at least for a while. BuzzFeed and ScoopWhoop will have articles like: “Google Went Down for 30 Minutes and You Won’t Believe What Happened Next” and “10 Things to Do When Google Goes Down the Next Time.”

If it becomes a continual, repeated problem, people will switch to alternative products. Google’s revenue will decline, and it will lose the monopoly. People will move on and build better products. Google engineers will have to hunt for jobs again. Many of them will start their own companies.

More likely, it will not happen again (at least not for a long time), and Google will recover and will do its best to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

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