All those questions we could never ask to our friends, family and libraries; Google is now answering all of them for us. Google is referred as “God” by quite a lot of internet users, simply because all those questions we always wished to ask to God – are now answered by Google.
What’s the value of Google Search?
Economists have methods to find out a value of any entity; most of the times a value is measured in monetary terms. The “compensating variation” asks how much money we would have to give a person to make up for taking the good away from them while the “equivalent variation” asks how much money someone would give up to acquire the good in question.
Let us try to understand it from user’s point of view
I am old enough and I can recall how I used to search for answers when Google search wasn’t available. I had to ask my parents, my brother, my teacher or had to look through a pile of reference books to find answers to basic questions. Even the small questions, like how to spell a word or elementary physics theories. And while searching for that ‘something’ in a reference book I could never do a Control+F! So it basically involved going through books which were most likely to have explanations to my curiosity and finally not having arrived at a justified one – but learning quite a lot about other stuff by the end of it.
I might or not find an answer to my question with which I started, but end up with a few more. Sometimes, it happened that I used to let a question go off my mind for all the trouble involved. Millennial kids (Gen Y) would go insane if you put them in this situation.
Time Saved Vs More Questions
Can we measure how much time it saves us compared to what we used in the bad old days before Google? The answer is yes and the study is available.
Based on a random sample of Google queries, researchers found that answering the same using libraries took about 22 minutes while answering them using Google took 7 minutes. You can read this study here (in pdf) – A Day without a Search Engine: An Experimental Study of Online and Of?ine Searches. Overall, Google saves 15 minutes of time/question. And this calculation ignores the cost and time involved in actually going to the library, which in some cases is quite substantial.
An average internet user searches 7.2 times / day on Google (2012 data) – saving himself over 110 mins/day. Essentially meaning we have added 110 mins to our each day and we can do so much more collectively by the time saved. Putting monetary value to this can get real vague and non-sense; but no one stops us from doing it!
Going to a library and finding an answer can be as expensive as Rs 250 ($5) in traveling and back, apart from opportunity cost of the same + monetary value of those 22 mins involved in searching for the answer + risk involved of going back with out getting an answer. Approximate value per search can be $10. And one Google search involves the cost of the device (divided by total number of questions it fetches for you in its life time) + the internet charges. This will be a few cents. Effectively saving you $10 per question and $70 in a day.
Time Saved Vs More Questions
Since the cost of getting answers is now so low, it is important to take a note of this, we ask a lot more questions. When getting an answer involved a trip to the library and 22 minutes to answer an average question, we only made efforts to get answers to important questions. Now that it involves only a few minutes, we ask many more — and a lot less valuable questions. Well, no question is less valuable than others – however, when compared to bad old days, we also search for stuff that can be avoided and stupid searches.
In other words, we wouldn’t bother to even to go to the library unless we were willing to spend at least 22 minutes (on average) to find the answer (to how to kiss your girlfriend or whats the best time to take a bath). Now that it takes us only a few seconds or minutes to get an answer, we ask a lot of frivolous questions (along with the important ones, of course.)
These frivolous questions that are added to our list (or call it surfing through the world database) takes a lot more time than what we saved (110 mins /day/user) and hence the world is hooked up on the screens. Good or Bad? I do not know.
All I can gauge is; it is now possible for everyone on earth to have access to all the information humans have ever produced.
Suppose Google were to disappear! All advertisers and publishers (like this one) would lose a lot of visitors to their web sites. How much are those lost visitors worth to them? This is vaguely 80% of their business value if its a internet based business. Assigning a value is difficult.
Also, if Google did not exist, man would have to invent it. So we would expect that as the weeks went on, users would start to use other search engines, and advertisers would spend advertising dollars in different ways, and publishers would find other ways to get ad dollars for their web sites.
So the long-run loss in value would be substantially less than the immediate impact.
According to this study, Google search is worth $1.44 trillion / year; not including the traveling cost to libraries, value to non-employed, entertainment value and better decision making value etc etc etc.