What is Finder Spyder: An investigation.
Does Finder Spyder sound familiar? It should if you watch much TV.
As I was writing an article about the fake apps and websites we come across on television, I stumbled upon the site — also known as Spyder Finder (and Finder-Spyder, Spyder-Finder, and however other many combinations of the two words there are). It’s a fictional search engine used on multiple television shows, including but not limited to Criminal Minds, CSI, The X-Files, Breaking Bad, and Weeds.
I was intrigued. It turns out there are a number of fake websites used on television, but none with as much name recognition as Finder Spyder. It is the only website to hold a place on the Wikipedia category of “Fictional Brands,” which includes icons such as Oceanic Airlines and Duff Beer.
Armed with my real life search engine, I embarked on an investigation into everything Finder Spyder.
Why even use Finder Spyder?
Before we delve further, we must ask the most obvious question: “Why do shows even use a fake search engine in the first place?
According to Google’s policies, if you want to use Google products in film or TV, you must submit an exhaustive application and Google has to approve of how it’s being represented. If you do get the okay, you also have to make sure your character is logged into their Google account and using Chrome.
Completing the application and waiting around for approval is a lot of trouble to go to just to have someone type on screen for all of two seconds.
For whatever reason, it was Finder Spyder that became popular, even amongst some more search-engine sounding names like “Searchsies,” “Roundsearch,” and “Search-Wise.” The actual Finder Spyder domain does not exist, which means production companies can design the page however they please.
The first sighting
According to its Wikipedia page, the earliest use of Finder Spyder was in the 2005 pilot episode of Prison Break. Ruining my Hulu watchlist and future recommendations, I dove into Prison Break to check out this historic first moment.
But, after watching that episode a few times and trying to spot it, I eventually discovered that Finder Spyder’s actual first appearance isn’t till the 17th episode of Prison Break, which aired in early 2006.
And there it appears on the screen, as Spyder Finder, for about a second. I can definitely see why Original Film didn’t want to appeal to Google for just that momentary flash.
Popularity over time
With the exception of a few searches in 2004, before the debut of Finder Spyder, the popularity of Finder Spyder/Spyder Finder across Google searches almost directly lines up with the episodes and television shows it appears in.
The peak use of Finder Spyder appears to be in the late 2000s, which explains the spikes in interest. I theorize that this was probably due to search engines becoming more common in the world in general, which translated over to TV characters using them too.
The highest peak, in October 2007, could be because Finder Spyder made four consecutive appearances in science-fiction television series, Journeyman, from late September through October of 2007.
According to TechRepublic, Journeyman‘s usage of Finder Spyder is particularly daring, because it uses the same color-scheme as Google. On their trademark page, Google very explicitly states: “Don’t copy or imitate Google’s trade dress, including the look and feel of Google web design properties or Google brand packaging, distinctive color combinations, typography, graphic designs, product icons, or imagery associated with Google.”
Journeyman is the also only show with a wiki that has a page for Finder Spyder. The show itself did not have high ratings, but apparently, it had the kind of fans who would take notice of a fake search engine.
Most Finder Spyder usage on popular shows was pre-2010. Only a handful of lesser-known, less-long-running shows (Touch, Bosch, and The Finder among them) used Finder Spyder in the 2010s, so the searches don’t rise up much.
Revival — or that tiny little peak in 2016
That strange little blip in 2016, however, directly lines up with the first episode of the tenth season of The X-Files, where Scully used lil’ ol’ Finder Spyder to search for Tad O’Malley.
Previous usages of Finder Spyder in the 2010s weren’t enough to make an impact, but the appearance on a highly-anticipated revival of a popular 90s sci-fi show — and having Scully actually make a reference to Google in the literal next episode — was enough of a reaction to cause that upward tick in searches.
There’s a sparsely-posted Tumblr blog dedicated to Scully’s use of Finder Spyder, though it has not posted much since the airing of the episode.
One of the posts theorizes that Scully’s use of Finder Spyder is an homage to Breaking Bad, but Finder Spyder sleuth that I (apparently) am, I now know that Breaking Bad was not the first occurance of the fake search engine.
It’s interesting to note that the two shows that correlate with the upticks in Google Trends were both science fiction shows. Perhaps sci-fi fans care more about fictional search engines.
Apparently, you can buy Finder Spyder Merchandise
Has this investigation inspired a passionate love for Finder Spyder? Do you wish you could proclaim that love and let everyone know just how much you care for a fictional search engine? Well, turns out there is Finder Spyder merchandise.
It’s not officially licensed by Finder Spyder (since Finder Spyder does not exist), but you can purchase this shirt off TeeRepublic — as well as other items with the logo.
I reached out to the creative minds behind this logo, Mindspark Creative, eager to connect with other Finder Spyder fans. Jim Davis, the Creative Director of Mindspark, told me that he picked the logo because he likes to design the logos of fictitious brands in pop culture.
Finder Spyder fit the criteria, and also had no legal ties.
“Every time I see the logo, it looks different [or] is poorly designed. So I designed one,” he says. “I think it’s a super fun bit of trivia that most people would find interesting.”
The logo isn’t a hot seller, which Davis says is probably due to the brand being “so subtle and hard to spot that people are unaware of its existence.”
So…what does this all mean?
Finder Spyder is so far the most widely used fictional search engine on television. It may have peaked in in the late 2000s, but it’s still one of those cool things that you won’t notice unless it’s pointed out. So next time your favorite TV character needs to cyberstalk their arch-nemesis, keep your eyes peeled.