It's 2008. There's no Google. What now?

Google is 10 years' old this Sunday but what if Larry Page and Sergey Brin had spent their university years pickling their livers instead of programming? We imagine a world without Google...

1 We'd still have brains
Why bother remembering things when you can just Google them? According to Nicholas Carr Google's instant access to everything may be reprogramming our brains and ruining our attention spans. Which reminds us of that thing, you know, that thing that bloke said about, er, things. No, sorry. It's gone.

2 We'd have fewer funny images
Without Google Image Search, the wags at,, and Icanhazcheezburger would have a much poorer selection of amusing images for their photographic tomfoolery - and the web would be a sadder place as a result.

3 We'd have rubbish webmail
Pre-Gmail, webmail had tiny amounts of storage space and terrible search tools. Gmail raised the bar, and every single webmail provider had to improve their offerings accordingly. Pre-Gmail, you'd get a few megabytes of storage and you'd be grateful. Now, you get gigabytes free with your Corn Flakes.

4 We'd pay for content
If a site charges for access, we'll just Google for one that offers similar stuff for free. More often than not, that means a site funded by advertising - and more often than not, that advertising comes via Google. Wags suggest that when Google says it wants to organise all the world's information, it means it wants to organise all the world's money.

5 Beta would mean beta
It isn't the only offender, but Google's (ab)use of the beta label is particularly annoying. Pre-Google, "beta" meant a final check for bugs before the finished version shipped. Gmail has been in beta for approximately 3,000 years. Expect a similarly long beta period for Google's new browser, Google Chrome.

6 Pub quizzes would be fun
Google has been a boon for pub quizmasters, but it's taken the joy out of playing. Whenever the quizmaster asks a hard question you can see the electric glow as everybody sneakily Googles it on their phones.

7 We'd still use Usenet
When Google bought the Usenet archive Deja News, people still used Usenet - but Google then turned it into Groups, blurring the lines between Usenet and Google's own content and effectively killing Usenet in the process.

8 Bloggers would be broke
AdSense has made it possible for bloggers to earn money from their writing - in some cases, lots of money. Of course, that's also resulted in blogs whose content only exists to push advertising and "How to make money from blogging" blogs, but we don't read those ones so we don't care.

9 The iPlayer would suck
Without Google, the combination of bandwidth bills and legal action would have taken YouTube off the net ages ago. YouTube's success has clearly influenced iPlayer, and without it we'd probably be stuck with the DRMed, download-only iPlayer 1.0.

10 Mozilla wouldn't make money and IE would still be rubbish
Firefox's search box generates tens of millions of dollars for Mozilla every year - and it makes a tidy sum for Apple and Opera, too. By effectively subsidising alternative browsers and web technologies, Google's cash forces Microsoft to improve IE - and its new browser, Google Chrome, kicks the browser wars up another notch.

11 We'd be lost
Although rivals have overtaken it in some areas - Live Maps' bird's eye view is great - Google took online mapping and made it something we use every day. It's not just the about maps, though: it's the integration with local search results, the mobile versions and the API that gives developers the keys to make all kinds of mashups.

12 We'd still have privacy
Google's massive share of the search market and the sheer range of services it provides - including adverts on what seems to be most of the internet - means that it holds an unprecedented and potentially terrifying amount of data about individual internet users. If Google ever decides to become evil, we're doomed.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.