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A sage reminder

15 December 2020

Google, it's everywhere.

Although it started life as a rather clever search engine, Google has become ubiquitous throughout the myriad of different services you're likely to encounter online.

Even though you may not be directly using a Google service, most of the websites you visit probably expose you to the internet giant's technologies and effects -- whether it's because they're using ads served by Adwords or perhaps because they're gathering performance metrics via those services.

These days, Google even reaches out beyond your keyboard and the touch-screen of your portable device.

Like Amazon's Alexa, Google's home assiatant provides interactive voice-based control of real-world devices such as lighting, home entertainment, security alarms and access, etc.

And yesterday, countless folk around the world were reminded why sometimes, putting all your eggs in one basket, is not always a good idea.

According to this BBC story, Google's authentication service went down yesterday, causing what was effectively a massive outage of most of its services.

Ironically, Google Search still worked but most of the other services that are used directly or indirectly by vast swathes of poeple across the globe simply failed to operate.

This tweet from someone called Joe Brown was perhaps the most sage reminder of the risks associated with using too much technology to accomplish what should be a very simple task -- then discovering it doesn't work because "Google is down".

However, anyone looking to send an urgent email to/from a GMail account would have been similarly disappointed during the outage and those who wanted to access or update critical documents stored in Google's cloud were simply out of luck.

Fortunately the period of non-availability was quite short, less than an hour but what if there'd been a more long-lasting failure?

How much disruption would an entire day's (or longer) outage cause to businesses and individuals across the world?

For example, I finally bit the bullet and invested in a somewhat more up-market smartphone yesterday and during setting up the device it became abundantly clear that Android devices are hugely reliant on Google's back-end and the cloud-based services it provides.

These days, even something as simple as watching Netflix on your big-screen TV may require Google in the loop in order to "cast" from a tablet or smartphone.

With all this power and such a huge reliance on its services it is indeed very worrying that a simple outage could have such a significant affect on the way we work and spend our leisure hours.

What's to stop Google from deciding to start putting the squeeze on the billions of people who are now a slave to its services?

Imagine how much extra revenue and profit could be earned by charging as little as $10 a year for each Google account -- and if you didn't pay, your phone, your tablet and many of the other online services that rely on Google for their authentication, tracking and other services may also become unavailable to you or at least hugely diminished in value.

Could it be that we're holding a knife to our own throats in respect to our reliance on Google?

Where will this ultimately lead?

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