Tomorrow Is Google-free Thursday. Could You Do It?

Think that giving up Google search for a day wouldn't be that hard? Adbusters invites you to step up the challenge and not use any Google products at all, like Gmail or Google Maps, on May 5. BGBlue/Getty/Google/HowStuffWorks

Could you go 24 hours without using Google search? That's the challenge laid down by the not-for-profit magazine Adbusters. The Vancouver magazine has named tomorrow, May 5, "Google No Search Day" (#GoogleNoSearchDay). Why? The main reason comes down to Google's increasingly pivotal role in our lives.

It has been said that if a service is free, then you are actually the product being sold. That's the case with Google's search engine (and mail, and maps, and pretty much everything else the company makes). And Adbusters finds that a bit worrisome.

Google makes most of its money by selling ads (2015 total revenue was $74.54 billion, with $67.39 billion being ad revenue), and it can command a good price for two big reasons. First, lots of people use Google — its global market share is in the 71 percent range for desktop searches and nearly 95 percent for mobile searches. Second, Google can serve up ads related to the stuff we're searching for, which means we're more likely to pay attention to the ads. This works much better than a random ad placed against unrelated content.

So our dependence on Google means we're sharing more of ourselves with a giant company, which in turn profits from that information. Just to be clear, we include HowStuffWorks in that "our," as we're a digital business that depends on Google, among others, for traffic.

Adbusters issued the challenge to get everybody thinking about how we share our personal data. Plus, it's very different to actually use your brain to come up with an answer as opposed to relying on Google to provide it for you.

That's not a new idea, by the way. Back in 2008, the writer Nicholas Carr submitted a piece to The Atlantic titled "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" Carr pointed out that we're offloading more of the information we used to store in our brains onto the Internet. From phone numbers to basic facts, the Internet has become an enormous crutch.

So could you get through a day without using Google search? Here at HowStuffWorks, it seems a pretty safe bet that none of us would be able to do our jobs very effectively without it. But perhaps this Thursday we'll put it to the test. We just need to Google where the closest library is to our office.

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