Google isn't the answer to everything

It may sound like contrary advice for a technology column, but as much as googling is a term that we use so often in our daily lives, my advice is not to google everything.
It may sound like contrary advice for a technology column, but as much as googling is a term that we use so often in our daily lives, my advice is not to google everything.

Today I have a big day planned. After a breakfast of yeast extract on toast, I am going to visit a shopping mall and travel down the moving stairway after having purchased my lightweight jacket with both clasp lock zip fasteners and additional hook and loop fasteners.

I am going to ride my personal watercraft before throwing a flying disc to my children who will, no doubt, ignore the cold and wear a short-sleeved, collared shirt. I will need to pack some facial tissues and adhesive bandages for the outing plus bring a vacuum flask for morning tea.

I wonder if I should just cover my children in petroleum jelly and wrap them in air bubble packaging?

This statement has been uttered...never...because certain brand names are now synonymous with the product. If you replaced descriptions above with Vegemite; Escalator; Windbreaker; Zipper; Velcro; Jet Ski; Frisbee; Polo; Kleenex; Band-Aid; Thermos; Vaseline and Bubble Wrap the statement makes more sense.

Google was genericised in an incredibly short timeframe. After being founded in 1998, it was only 2002 when the American Dialect Society named google, the verb, the most useful word of 2002. No longer did we search for something on the Internet but we had started 'googling' search terms.

The first usage in American television was also in 2002 when Willow asked Buffy (the Vampire Slayer) if she had "googled her yet." The Oxford English Dictionary added the term in 2006. Little did it matter that there were dozens of search engines used by the public. Google had attracted enough market share that people started to google everything.

Large organisations stopped putting their full Web address on advertisements and instead started to tag ads with "just google Product X" as it was easier to remember than a Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN).

Suddenly scammers smelt an opportunity.

If a scammer setup a web site to look identical to, say, a banking site then the scammer could rely on people googling the banking site to direct some traffic to their site.

Throw in a few Google ads and suddenly the fake banking site appears at the top of the results. Once you type in your details to the fake site the scammer receives your details and bada bing bada boom they are draining your bank account.

The opportunities were not just in relation to bank sites. Government web sites - in particular the tax office - are common targets of fake web sites.

Download software to your computer that stops viruses or performs a useful function and, better still, is free, sounds fantastic...until you realise that you have just downloaded a virus to perform malicious activities on your PC.

Perhaps the scariest googling of all occurs with what is often called Dr Google. 80 per cent of Internet users said they searched for a health-related topic online. Ignoring the qualifications issue and your specific circumstances - both red flags - it seems uncanny that many of these medical advice sites seem to ultimately direct you to a 'miracle cure' for only one small fee.

When the cure is the same despite the fact that you may have a skin condition or high blood pressure or headaches, you should be very sceptical.

It may sound like contrary advice for a technology column, but as much as googling is a term that we use so often in our daily lives, my advice is not to google everything. There are still some instances when typing in a FQDN, albeit tedious, is a much safer solution.

Tell me if you have ever been directed to a fake Web site at ask@techtalk.digital.

  • Mathew Dickerson is the founder of regional tech and communications company Axxis Technology.