Five minutes without Google hits website traffic hard


It’s no secret that many Internet users have become highly reliant on Google’s services. But an as-yet unexplained outage at the company showed just how significant a part it now plays in our online life.

For a few minutes last Friday afternoon, all Google services became unavailable. Google’s publicly released status notes show the outage lasted from 16:37 to 16:48 local time, though the company says it was somewhere between one and five minutes.

Analytics firm GoSquared says the results were clear. As shown above (on a graph labeled with British time), the total page views it tracked dropped by around 40 percent during this period.

It’s important to note that this is not necessarily a 40 percent drop in all Internet (or even all web) traffic. It’s a 40 percent drop in pages which GoSquared was tracking, which appears to be pages belonging to its own customers.

In this case, the most likely explanation is the temporary loss of visits from people who find pages through a Google search in the first place, along with the people who don’t bother bookmarking or remembering a URL and instead just Google it each time they visit.

A secondary factor would be sites which are otherwise reliant on Google in some form (for example for advertising or javascripts), had loading delays as a result, and thus put people off continuing their visit.

At first glance, the stat appears to show that many, if not most, of the people who found Google unavailable decided against going to an alternative search engine such as Bing. However, with such a brief outage the chances are that many people either assumed the web as a whole was down (particularly those with Google as a home page) or decided to leave their search till later. Had it been a longer outage we might have learned more about what people would really do in a Googocalypse.

Google hasn’t detailed whether its DNS service was affected by the outage. If so, that would likely have reduced traffic to some extent.

Across the web as a whole, rather than just the sited GoSquared track, it’s possible the disruptions was even greater, at least in terms of overall data, because YouTube was affected.

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