Here's What Happened When Google Shut Down For Just 5 Minutes

Google has been the go-to option for internet users for a long time, so how much impact did it really make when it went down for a couple of minutes? It took an outage to show us.

Starting out as a college dorm project in 1995, it's safe to say Google's eponymous search engine isn't what it used to be (via Google). For starters, it was initially called Backrub before the company was established in 1998. It was later changed into a name that was both a mathematical wordplay and the vision of its creators — Larry Page and Sergey Brin. With a mission to "organize the world's information," Google eventually grew into something that does more than simple web searches.

From making it easier to find jobs in the U.S. to helping tune an instrument, Google made strides in making its search engine more preferable over its alternatives. In fact, it has even evolved to a point where users no longer need words to search on Google because they can find songs by humming. Although the company's rising global user base can be attributed to its litany of improvements and new services throughout the years, it appears that the tech giant already had a huge hold over the web and its netizens prior to all that. The thing is, it first had to go down in order to show just how high up it actually is on the internet food chain.

Is Google down, or the entire internet?

Sure, Google might not make up the entirety of the internet, but after over a decade since its inception, it accidentally showed that it's pretty darn close. In 2013, Google went down for a mere five minutes bringing 40% of the Internet's overall web traffic along with it. It's worth noting that Google web searches weren't the only thing affected, as the blackout also rendered Google Drive and YouTube unusable as well. Fortunately for affected netizens at the time, its services went back online in just four minutes. Internet traffic spiked by 50% once Google finally recovered, further suggesting that the bulk of activity on the internet somehow involves Google in one way or another (via Forbes).

Some were debating as to whether or not the incident was nothing more than a publicity stunt, but the resulting damages suggest otherwise. The blackout reportedly cost Google a whopping $371,000, while a similar case in 2009 resulted in backlash from angry netizens, according to Cnet. Although Google managed to patch things up expeditiously, the company reportedly refrained from disclosing the true cause of its infamous blackout. One thing's certain though, Google's downtime history definitely gives some credence to the tech giant's gargantuan presence and impact on the internet.

Google is down ... for global internet dominance

It shouldn't be that surprising how much people are affected every time Google has some downtime. After all, the number of Google web search users alone greatly surpasses competing search engines. Statistics from Global Stats show Google garnering 87% of user searches in the U.S. next to Microsoft's bing's meager 7%. However, Google doesn't just take the top spot, it dominates by a huge margin in terms of web browsers too. This is reflected in 2021 when Google Chrome claimed 3.3 billion users or 41% of all internet users (via Techradar).

Apple's Safari browser lagged far behind by billions while the rest are simply too far to keep up. This trend carried on the following year, as Google Chrome once again became the most popular web browser in 2022 (via ZDNet). If a quick five-minute blackout caused a lot of ruckus in the past, how much more would it affect Google's massive user base which has now risen in the billions?

So, would it spell the end for the internet if Google is down again? Not really, but it would likely take a significant chunk of the web's total traffic with it, perhaps even more than before.