We have all watched a movie or TV episode where a character aimlessly slams their keyboard then a search engine website pops up. I usually snigger to myself as we see them type in a characters full name and gain access to excessively private information from a poorly designed Google-wannabe. Anyway, as 2015 comes to a close I thought it would be fun to shed light on why producers don’t show Google and reveal some of the wonderfully bad fictional search engines in movies and TV shows.
Getting Google’s Permission
Getting Google’s permission to use their brand on the silver screen is an unsurprisingly complicated process, but it can be done. I came across this page on Google’s website that breaks down what you need to provide and the basic requirements you need to abide by. There is also a submission form for anyone who feels it’s very important to your story that Google really is Google.
Fictional Search Engine Examples
This is by far the safest option. To avoid the legal hassle, problems with sponsorships, product placement, distribution or the chain of title. The big productions tend to take the safest option and have a search engine created or use one that already exists. It’s actually a lot harder than you think to find examples on the web but here are some I managed to source:
Finder-Spyder – Breaking Bad, CSI, etc
Perhaps the most popular fictional search engine of all time, Finder-Spyder has found its way into many many unconnected TV shows including:
- Breaking Bad,
- Criminal Minds,
- CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,
- Prison Break,
- The X-Files,
- Without a Trace
During these appearances it has gone through several design changes. Here are some of those iterations.
The search engine has become such a cult hit that you can even buy a Finder-Spyder merchandise:
Chumhum – The Good Wife
Thanks to Johanna at Orcadia Design for bringing this one to my attention. Chumhum is a search engine which features in multiple episodes of The Good Wife TV series as Lockhart/Gardner’s largest legal client. Although the series use Chumhum.com which is currently parked, you can actually visit Chumhum.co.uk for a DuckDuckGo powered search engine experience. Also, like Finder-Spyder, you can buy your share of chumhum branded merchandise including a thong??
Search the Web – Supernatural
Sam and Dean from the American hit TV show Supernatural use the rather dated “search the web” which appears to work despite being hosted on the dubious http:\\searchtheweb URL containing no suffix and incorrect forward slashes.
Searchsies.com – Community
Jeff Winger, the shows lead character, uses the ridiculously named Searchies.com to do his research in this popular American sitcom. Interestingly if you visit Searchsies.com you get redirected to a broken page on the Sony Pictures website.
Searchling – Law and Order
This unsubtle copy of our beloved Google was used in the Law and Order TV series and no doubt solved countless homicides and mysteries.
Bing – Amazing Spider-Man, Vampire Diaries & Source Code
Just kidding! Bing.com isn’t actually a fictional search engine, despite what the usage figures suggest. (#SEObanter)
Need A Fake Search Engine?
Are you planning a production and need a live fake search engine as an alternative to Google? Well here are a couple you may want to consider:
Here is a live example of a search engine built by Compuhire.com specifically for use in movies and television shows. Note how the look of the page changes each time it is refreshed.
Querioo is another live example of a search engine built by FilmSourcing.com specifically for use in movies and television shows. Obviously get their permission before using it.
Fictional search engines not enough for you? I came across FictionURL.com, a blog devoted to exploring television’s fictional internet through commentary and criticism. Enjoy!
Do you know any great examples that I haven’t managed to find? Feel free to leave them in the comments below.