Something strange happened today in the office – Google suddenly stopped working. Yes that’s right – nothing was wrong with our network, so it was not a case of the developer putting the blame on the Infrastructure people. I was in the middle of developing something in our SharePoint system, and looking up TechNet when suddenly clicking that famous ‘Search’ button did …. nothing. I looked around the office and no one it seems was getting the problem, but 10 minutes later my boss was getting the same issue and then a minute later Google started displaying their CAPTCHA tests against the search entries. I have to admit this was the first time I have ever experienced this, but as soon as I found that Google was down I went straight to Bing – which luckily provided the right results (for a change). I can only think that either Google was under cyber-attack or there some technical fault.
On the way home it led me to think how dependant Internet users these days are on Google, it is always the first place of call not just because of its traditional non-messy look and feel but more so becuase it does the job in returning what you are looking for even if you don’t know exactly what you need. There was a time as a developer – not so longer ago perhaps pre 2005 that you were expected to know every aspect of the programming language or tool you were using – and if you got stuck you would go into the in-built help system, or look up a manual. These days it is straight to Google be there a manual next to you or not – it is just quicker to go on-line and get the answer you are looking for. There was a time where I would argue against such actions as I believed it was a proffesional duty to know the langauge and the commands but these days – languages and frameworks change so quickly, I actually doubt the value of memorizing more than 60% of a language is worth the time and effort.
Anyway - what I learnt today was that the internet is a very difficult place to search and navigate without Google. It is the ultimate tool for navigating through the web, without which I think most Internet users would be lost as most of the people were in the office today. Without realizing it, Google’s ability to find the right thing, has probably increased the productivity of most of the workforce who use computers regularly. You could argue that it’s importance to the Inernet at this moment in time is so high that any cyber attack on the search engine should be considered an attack on all internet users.