The day the Earth stopped… A few words about a small, big Google crash.

On 14 December 2020, Google’s services crashed, which paralysed the Internet and … It should make us think about how dependent we are on the services of the American giant. However, will we really find the time to reflect constructively?

On 14 December 2020, Google stopped working and the whole world held its breath. No, this is not a sneak peek of science fiction novels by a young, promising writer. It is a fact that we have kept abreast of. Today, when everything has returned to normal when the sun continues to rise in the east and set in the west, let us think about the implications of this failure. 

Something happened and we could not be heard.

Paraphrasing the words of a well-known Internet celebrity in Poland, we are giving the origin of the failure of 14 December. Something has happened and the world has lost its voice. Metaphorically speaking. Just before 1 p.m., there were first reports of the failure of Google services in Europe and, as befits a giant and one of the leaders of the global IT services market, the failure was repaired in less than an hour (although some users had to wait only 30 minutes to restore access. From a common-sense perspective, this was a moment that people working under the remote working model probably did not even notice when they just had a looser day or decided to extend their lunch break.

The implications of this failure, however, cannot be contained solely in an underestimating but common sense tone. An hour ago, European Google users did not have access to e-mail, to files stored on the Disc or to their favourite videos or music on YouTube. In addition, European companies based on G Suite/Google Workspace could not work, and schoolchildren could not learn online because the Google Classroom platform was not working either.

That’s not enough! At the moment, even the Google search engine refused to obey, which could actually translate into daily revenue in the e-commerce sector. The situation that we can look at today was so serious that even our editorial box was being asked questions such as ‘Gmail is not working for me, do you know what happened’? People were typing questions like ‘Gmail doesn’t work’ into the Google search engine. – into a search engine, which has also caught a momentary breathlessness…

Today, when the crisis is over, we know that the reason for the failure was the ‘internal memory limit problem’ that generated the authentication system failure. Was this really the case? Well, we are unlikely to find out, because even if the cause of the crash was much, much more serious, there is no force in this world that would force Google to admit even a shred of weakness. After all, we are all dependent on the stability of Mountain View’s services, are we not?

When Google sneezes, the world holds its breath.

While working on this column, and wondering how it happened that we gave ourselves a digital homonym, I read the crash information found in Google’s search engine in the Chrome browser window and created text in the Google Documents. Of course, I could write in Pages and search for information in some Bing or other DuckDuckGo in a Safari or Edge or Opera browser window, but, well? Thinking about the implications of the 14 December crash, I thoughtlessly used a company that it would be wise to become independent of.

However, before we move on to the highly individualised thread (not that I would like to share a way to break with the services of all the giants of the IT market), let’s look at the big picture, as they say in the States. Google (for the sake of reliability, Microsoft and Apple too) has shaped the Western world in a way that suits it best and has appropriated our user accounts on many levels. 

  • Firstly, the Google search engine. The fact that many of the Porsche Panamera owned by the owner of a profitable e-shop were bought with money earned from purchases made thanks to organic traffic from the Google search engine is probably known to most of us. Some people have their own e-shops and invest in positioning because this has a real impact on revenue. Of course, I am not assessing here the morality of online marketing or its effectiveness, but I am only showing a certain fact. Disabling the Google search engine would be a hecatomb for the e-commerce sector.
  • Secondly, Gmail, G Suite and documents. I cannot imagine the enormity of people who work with Google on a daily basis. From freelancers to organised corporations with extensive internal structures, millions of people across the Old Continent felt a slight sneeze on 14 December. What would happen if such a Gmail or G Suite stopped working for one day? For a working, classic 8 hours? What would be the consequences of disabling access to files held on the Disc? I cannot imagine the millions of people downloading the OpenOffice package to the hard disks of their company’s computers, so I am not going to pursue this thread.
  • Thirdly, YouTube. The whole Western world uses a single entertainment service that entertains us with the stars bred in their reality and allows us to listen to our favourite music at work or in short moments to relax. Even Facebook has direct competition in the social networking world! Let this relationship underline YouTube’s absolute dominance in the online entertainment sector. 

Let’s end this little enumeration here because the conclusion is quite obvious. If someone uses the web in addition to browsing Facebook, Instagram or TikTok and lives in areas to the west of the Urals (such a big simplification there), they use Google. The services of the American giant are so obvious to us, so sewn into our everyday life, that if Google got sick for good by catching a serious cold and cut us off from its solutions for a few days – the Western economy and Western culture would suffer from severe tonsillitis and spend long weeks under a warm duvet.

It is time to become independent. Are you sure?

Reason suggests that we should cut ourselves somewhat off from Google services and become independent from similar solutions offered by other companies. The question is, is this at all realistic? My individual position should probably be quite obvious already, after all, I am working with the Google ecosystem, supporting myself somewhat with the Apple ecosystem. This allows me to communicate efficiently, create, edit and upload texts, share files with colleagues and so on. Yes, I always take care of file backup, but anyway, Google turning off its services would dramatically complicate my professional life.

Using Google is convenient

Why not give up Google when all my professional activities can be carried out by alternative methods, including partially offline? The answer is very simple and… a little embarrassing. Well, using Google is convenient! Knowing the services you deal with on a daily basis, work is done quickly and efficiently. Not only that, but we are sure that nothing will surprise us, not surprise us, not hinder our work, because Google even makes changes in an evolutionary and delicate way so as not to complicate users’ lives.

And let us not forget that, using my example, I am writing about a guy who is in a fairly comfortable situation: he can juggle the services of different providers. However, what are the hundreds of people in companies that base their entire infrastructure on Google services to do? How would the e-commerce sector, for which traffic from the Google search engine is nowadays either to be or not to be, become independent – because before alternative search engines can generate similar positioning revenues, the leasing instalments for the Panamera Porsche mentioned earlier would bury many businesses. 

The conclusion of this text is somewhat sad, very secondary and not very revealing, but it is worth writing it down because few would consciously admit it. It is, however, a little shameful to ‘take on board’ the fact that Google is simply too big to be independent of. We are the ones who have made it too big to give up the style of work and life it enables. The services of the company from Mountain View accompany us every minute of our professional lives and often satisfy our need for entertainment and relaxation after work. 

It is also not possible to become globally independent of Google at the moment until:

  • SEO will cease to exist,
  • Android will be banned,
  • We will all travel with TomTom,
  • We will all set up one-man businesses and our own e-mail boxes on our own hostings,
  • Extreme censorship of videos on YouTube will be introduced,
  • The obligatory communion gift will be a NAS server,
  • An order will be introduced to use proprietary ERP systems in companies employing over 100 people

Go ahead, continue the plot in the comments, because the list of similar absurdities is endless 😉 
We know that it’s a mistake to be so friendly with one company and we know that it looks at us so globally that we are completely irrelevant to it from an individual perspective. We and Google are a relationship that is a classic closed circuit, from which – here again, generalization – there is no escape route. What then remains for us? To live and work, and to hope that the next failure will not affect us any more than that of 14 December 2020, when Europe was given digital breathlessness. 

P.S. Of course, you can escape from Google, but only individuals will decide to do so. Collective entities are gone.

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