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Back to the Future: What if Google Never Existed?

Joe Johnson

So last Friday I begrudgingly sat down to watch what I knew would be a trashy Yank comedy; not being a been fan of the usual Seth Rogan idiot-fodder that Hollywood usually churns out I was more than dubious about ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’, a film not picked out by myself I might add!

As the ‘comedy’ unfolded my worst fears were realised as it dawned on me that the film was about to do exactly what it said on the tin. I looked on in despair as four halfwit American dudes got into a hot tub together and by some miracle, went back to 1984 after spilling a drop of Jagermeister into the tub’s electronic control panel.

This of course had ‘hilarious’ consequences and much chaos ensued as the bunch relieved their teen years in, oddly, a Ski resort. I recall summoning a faint snort of amusement at some point during the flick, but being a geek at heart, an event at the end of the film really grabbed my attention.

Three of the group get in the hot tub and go back to the present day but one of them, Lou, stays behind. As the trio adjust back into 21st century life they realise that Lou’s knowledge of the modern world that he took back to 1980’s benefited him financially in 2010 and that he pioneered a revolutionary way of searching the web: Lougle!

'The Butterfly Effect', a much more credible time-travel themed flick deals with these questions of ‘what if?’. The protagonist keeps returning to his past, re-making decisions which lead to catastrophic changes in the present. The film takes its name from the famous theory which dictates that a butterfly flapping its wings can cause a hurricane thousands of miles away.

This got me thinking (a dangerous pastime which I try to avoid at all costs), what if a chance event in the past had meant that Google was never invented? Would we still all be using Alta Vista, Lycos and *shudder* AOL? Would we still all be Asking Jeeves ‘what am I thinking?’ (Maybe that was just me!).

If Google was never conceived would there be an equivalent dominant search giant out that had a monopoly of the market, or would there be a more level playing field with a number of search engines competing against one another? What if search engines didn’t exist full stop? Would our navigation of the web be based on random discoveries and luck? That of course may not have affected SEO as, from what I’ve seen, some SEO outfits continue to base their operations on random discoveries and luck!

Time travel seems to be a pertinent theme at present, particularly with the re-release of arguably the most celebrated temporally twisted film of all time, ‘Back to the Future’. If only we could step into a DeLorean like Marty McFly and the gang, go back to the land of outrageous hair and synthesizers known as the 80s and invent our own all conquering search engine, then fast forward back to the noughties and reap the rewards!

If you were to go back in time and invent your own version of Google, what would you call it? How would you cope without Google, or search engines as a whole?

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