Search Box Detox

Goodbye, Google. I’m going search-free for 30 days.

Hello, my name is Crystal and I am addicted to search.

I’m not saying search is bad, it’s just become a habit. Search is a fantastic research tool. Search engines let us reference billions of documents that have been archived online for the last two decades.

In fact, the Google search box has been exactly the same since 1998.

The earliest available screenshot of Google “prototype” Nov 11, 1998 — from the Internet Archive at

There is no other technology in my life that hasn’t been updated in that long of a time period. My refrigerator, toaster and vacuum work basically the same as their ancestors but have had a facelift. Just like appliances, it’s possible I’m using search because it’s there and what I know, not because it’s always the best option.

Search was created to be an index of documents and web pages. Even though search works basically the same as it always has—with debatable additions like ads and results influenced by tracking your data — search is still the default for every question or curiosity I have.


I type into a search box more times a day than any other Internet activity beyond email. Each time I search I get millions *or billions* of results, of which I attempt to distill a few useful documents to sift through. Reading is an inefficient way of finding things and has turned me into a power-skimmer.

Similarly, if I walked into a library today, a reference librarian would point me to books matching specific topics and I could find what I need inside. Searching feels like this kind of work.

Microfilm came around in 1896—two centuries ago—and went commercial in the 1920's.

We’ve advanced. Time consuming activities get replaced by automated technologies. So many tools exist to get us exactly what we need, right now, without the friction of reading through the Internet’s epics. Speaking of skimming, remember microfilm at the public library? Hmm…

Tools to use instead of search

All of the research in this post was done by one of these methods:
• Texting a friend
Sensay *
• Siri
• Asking someone in person
• Maps, Yelp, Kayak, Giphy, and other specialty websites or apps
• Wikipedia
• Have suggestions? Let me know in the comments.

When search makes sense

There are a lot of practical reasons to use search engines:
• Research on factual or scholarly things
• Finding something in a set of data (i.e. searching my email inbox or my contacts)
• Sifting through historical data
• Finding a location on a map
• Finding images and GIFs
• Finding public info on people (including yourself)


Starting March 1st, 2015 I am search box free for 30 days. I’ll be posting some updates to Twitter and Facebook with #searchboxdetox. Hashtags belong to everyone… join me!

P.S. This is not anti-Google

Disclaimer: This detox is all about finding alternatives to search when those alternatives would save time and lessen frustration. The intention is to stop the habit of defaulting to the same search box for everything I need, because it’s not always the most efficient tool to use.

In full disclosure, I use Google Mail, Google Docs, Chrome, Waze, Google Maps and other tools created or acquired by Google. I think Google does those things well. It does search well, too. But search is not the solution for everything.

*Disclosure: I am the co-founder of Sensay and am already using the beta.☺ If you’d like an invite, email me: