The world without search engines

by Mark April 9th, 2008 

The search engine has become an integral part of life in the 21st century. The ability to type in a few words and then get some results that are interesting and useful for you – it’s as transforming to a culture as the introduction of the VCR, the audio CD, the personal computer, the microwave oven, and the cell phone..

Can you imagine having to remember or having a list of every website that you’d ever want to visit, especially the ones with URLs of 30 characters or more that don’t use many recognizable words? Search engines take that burden away from us.

Sometimes we take technology advances for granted after they’ve been inserted into our lives. But what if search engines never hit the mainstream? What if we didn’t have the ability to type in a string of characters and find the best matches for it out there on the Web?

Here are ten possible aspects of a world without search engines:

1. The Web as we know it would not exist. Something similar might have been created from the existing Internet infrastructure, but it would be much smaller and much less widely used, because of the difficulty in finding websites.

2. Portals might be much, much bigger than they are today, assuming that the Web ever became widely adopted in a search-less world. Can you imagine pages upon pages of links as your only way to navigate around the Web? Even worse than today?

3. A lot of cool and interesting small businesses might not ever get off the ground because they wouldn’t have had search engines to find them.

4. The practice of giving things away for free, especially software, might never have happened because – you guessed it – nobody would ever be able to find websites, even websites GIVING things away, unless they were at a portal somewhere.

5. Larry Page and Sergey Brin: they’re very bright guys and I’m sure they’d be successful today, but I doubt that Larry Page would have had his island wedding without search engines…

6. Related to the above, there wouldn’t be a verb called “google” – it would still be a noun, an unusual mathematical fact.

7. The adult entertainment industry would probably be a lot smaller. Enough said, I think.

8. The world’s libraries would be a lot more crowded today because so much information would still be on paper.

9. Arts and entertainment would be dominated by a few key media companies (OK, even more than today.)

10. William Shatner wouldn’t have kept his career above water by way of those commercials, because wouldn’t exist.

Whether or not you think these things are positive or negative, you can’t deny the world would be a much different place without search engines!

Mark Dykeman broadcasts from his brain several times per week at He’s an IT guy based in New Brunswick, Canada who spends lots of time blogging, using social media, reading and writing articles. He writes a weekly column about cool and useful websites in his local newspaper.

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4 Responses to “The world without search engines”

  1. Dave says:

    Great post. The internet would be not be as big a phenomenon as it is today without search engines, that's for sure.

  2. Nick James says:

    Great post, Mark. Sounds just dandy to me. I'd happily see a world without the search engine if it meant it gave me the time to finish this damn book I'm writing…

    Hold on though! No Bill Shatner?

    The price of literary grandeur is just too high 😉

  3. […] at Search Engine People yesterday (April 9/08).  My post was a "what if" scenario:  ten aspects of a world without search engines.  I promise you'll be laughing by the time you finish reading the […]

  4. It would result in a longer, more organised list of favourites, places link stumble upon would be bigger and I guess directories would be the main replacement.