That Google Chrome is the browser of choice for 43% of internet users worldwide, Google Search is used by 67% of that same population, Gmail has become the world’s most-used email service and YouTube is the video viewing website of choice means that a huge chunk of our online activity lies in Google’s hands. While everything works fine, we don’t bother with the implications of so much of the world’s online activity being serviced by a single company. But when something goes wrong—as it did on Wednesday when Google experienced a blackout for between 2-5 minutes—the repercussions come crashing back home. According to several web analytics firms, the drop in worldwide internet traffic due to the blackout was huge—GoSquared pegs this number at 40% of global traffic! And this doesn’t even count the fact that every Android phone (always connected to some Google service or the other) would have been disconnected as well.
There’s little that can be done about the fact that Google has become so essential to everyday life. But this blackout brings to the fore the idea that companies like Google have transcended being simple private companies. There’s a very strong public interest in their survival and resistance to outages, something governments should take cognisance of.