Editor’s Note: Guest Author Richard Barrett, working as a developer at TopCashBack a leading UK cashback and discount codes provider. Barrett joined the TopCashBack technical team, based in Bolton, in February 2011 finding the company to offer a lot of innovations all around and now play a part in developing new features and tools on the website, plus manage Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
There was a time when such a scenario would never be imagined, as our reliance on the services Google and Facebook provide have perhaps been taken for granted. Google, Facebook et al. have become an integral part of our lives, whether we like it or not, but January reminded us that there are those that wish to disrupt our reliance on such services through implementing new legislation. SOPA (Stop Online Piracy) and its sister bill PIPA (Protect IP Act), was targeted at combating the ever growing problem of distribution and publication of copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods.Many prominent websites such as Wikipedia lead public demonstrations against the bill with their famous black out page. Google also launched a take action portal as a result and also joined the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, eBay, Reddit etc. to publicly oppose the bill through a letter sent to key representatives of the U.S Senate and House of Representatives.
Now, that the dust has settled for the time being, it’s perhaps time to take a step back and consider a scenario where the bill had been successfully implemented – what our digital world be like without Google and Facebook? Let’s look at Google first. Since its inception in the mid-90s Google has come to prominence in the Search Landscape, owning the majority of core Search Share (comScore puts this at over 66%). The phrase “just Google it” has worked its way into our everyday speech, and Google has its fingers in many pies going way beyond presenting and ranking the most relevant results for users’ search queries. It’s hard to think of a service that Google hasn’t adapted online and made it free for everyone to use. ObizMedia produced an infographic which goes some way to visualising just how many services Google has launched over the years and presents some different views on the Search Engine. Of course, most recently Google has launched its own social media service in the form of Google+ to rival that of Facebook and Twitter, and with over 100 million registered users this will certainly not be another failed product à laGoogle Wave. Certainly if there was no Google, this kind of continual innovation and development of what already exists would perhaps still continue, but would lack the “je ne sais quoi” Google stamps on each service. There certainly wouldn’t be as many search conferences as there are now, and Matt Cutts wouldn’t have attained the online celebrity status he has got today.
What would the world be like if you couldn’t tag people and embarrass them? Or post status updates/photos of exotic locations to make all your friends jealous working in a cold office back home. Perhaps we would be more productive, as our daily need to waste time stalking people or playing pointless games would diminish, or perhaps it would funnel into other online activities e.g. reading the latest celebrity news online or spending more time on forums. Monday morning conversations would perhaps be duller, as people couldn’t catch up on their friends’ activities from the weekend. Certainly, there wouldn’t be as many debates as there are today centred around privacy concerns if Facebook didn’t exist.On the other hand, there’s no denying how Facebook has helped millions of people easily connect and keep in contact with old friends, distant relatives, travelling companions and so forth. It would be a sad day if we had no such replacement to help us easily connect with people online or easily find the information we were searching for.