By dawn in London Friday morning, it was clear that the people of Britain had voted to leave the European Union. As people awoke to this stunning news, many of them did what you may have done, too: They googled.
This chart shows a sharp rise in searches for information about the value of the British pound, for instance, as the currency nosedived. It’s the highest ever spike of searches related to the pound, according to Google data.
In London the night before, Google saw a 680 percent spike in searches for “move to Gibraltar” after the polls closed. Across the United Kingdom in the hours that followed, Google logged a 500 percent surge in searches about buying gold. The search term “Are we in or out of the EU?” spiked more than 2,450 percent, Google said. (Incidentally, one website about how to rebuild civilization from scratch, reported a huge influx of traffic, too.)
This isn’t surprising. In less than two decades, search engines have become an essential part of how many people make sense of the world. At a time when search engines are—for some 3 billion smartphone owners across the planet—practically never out of reach, such an observation is borderline mundane.