Football fans have spent September crowing about "replacement refs" — temporary referees the NFL is employing while it's embroiled in a contract dispute with the union that represents the league's usual officials. After just three weeks, the scabs have already gained a reputation of laughable incompetence, coming to a head last weekend when they potentially screwed the New England Patriots out of a victory and definitely screwed the Green Bay Packers.
What would happen if utterly unprepared "replacements" took over other stuff? Well, our Google searches wouldn't be very useful, as Replacement Google shows us. Type whatever you want to search for into Replacement Google — for example, "Vermont" — and watch as it returns a stream of results that's completely useless (for example, "A DVD of Cool Runnings.")
This fun diversion is the brainchild of Winooski developer and sports fan Erik Johnson. Johnson's also the man behind Just Enjoy!, an online travel site that organizes trips to big sporting events (we wrote about it in its previous incarnation as Vermont Baseball Tours in the sidebar here). The site went viral within hours — it's been spotlighted by BuzzFeed, the Huffington Post, the Los Angeles Times and Deadspin, just to name a few, and Johnson says it attracted 104,329 unique visitors just yesterday. Not bad for an hour's worth of work.
And now that we've seen the dark side of a world with broken search, let us hope that Google doesn't lock out its algorithms.