Giving Up Google
Google is an evil company. When they’re not surveilling billions of people, they’re trying to harm the web or firing employees for organizing. My first entry on this blog was about reasons to avoid Google products. I don’t like Google!
The thing is, Google is everywhere, and Google is free. It’s probably not much of an exaggeration to say that everyone who spends time online has used a Google service. In a lot of cases, they’re the default option that people choose without thinking. At some point, I just decided to stop. No more Google in my life.
Is that even possible in 2020? Mostly!
Some Google services are easily replaced. Others are difficult because of network effects, and still others just don’t seem to have any good competitors that I’ve found.
So here are all the Google services I used to use, how easy it is to avoid them and what I use instead.
I thought this one would be okay, since it’s a big target. The most promising competitor here seems to be DuckDuckGo, but ultimately I’ve been disappointed by their search results. They’re fine for easy queries, like if I type the exact name of what I’m searching for. More complex queries — for example, pasting an error message from my terminal — are not great. DuckDuckGo make it easy to search Google by prefixing a query with
g!, which I end up doing far too often.
If you’ve written it off in the past, you should revisit Firefox. It’s fast, its developer tools are great and it aggressively blocks trackers and advertisers. As of writing this, it’s blocked 339 trackers for me today.
That said, Mozilla’s recent layoffs — including their developer tools team — are worrying. If Firefox starts going downhill again, I’ll probably switch to Safari. That would suck, though — Firefox is the last major bastion against the Webkit/Blink browser engine monoculture.
I use an iPhone, so no problems here!
This might be a good time to mention that I have qualms with Apple, too — but they seem to be the least worst of the two real choices for a cell phone.
There are a million and one email services, so I wasn’t expecting too much trouble with this one. Partially because my email address is
@gmail.com, so there was no annoying transition where everyone had to update their contact info.
I went with Fastmail ($50 per year on their annual plan) and I have no complaints. It was super easy to import all my emails from Gmail. The webmail and phone apps are both good — although because my work uses Gmail, I use Spark in order to have all my email accounts in one app.
Fastmail email accounts come with a calendar, and it’s interoperable with Google calendars. Or they’re both compatible with some open standard; I’m not a calendar power user. Whatever the case, it works fine.
After the disastrous Apple Maps rollout, I was worried that this would be a tough one to replace. Not so! If you have an iPhone, Apple Maps gives you everything you want in a maps app. And their maps have gotten really good. I’m happy to report that you can leave those fears in 2012.
If you’re a city dweller like I am, there’s an even better option: CityMapper, which focuses specifically on public transit. They also have real-time transit alerts and offline maps. I use CityMapper whenever I’m taking public transit, and Apple Maps on the rarer occasion that I’m driving somewhere.
The only two of these I really use are Docs and Sheets. I’m mostly able to cover everything with a combination of tools: iA Writer for prose, Notion for general note-taking and Soulver for math related stuff. I would like to find a good full–featured spreadsheet replacement but so far that hasn’t been a huge obstacle.
The real issue is that I often use documents and spreadsheets with other people. And unfortunately, Google has built a nice little walled garden here. There’s no easy way for me to collaborate with someone else without forcing them to also forego Google Docs. On top of that, other services build on top of Google’s products. I use Tiller to stay on top of my spending, but they only support importing data into Google Sheets and Microsoft Office 365.
This is basically the same story as Google Docs, with the caveat that it’s much less common for me to need a shared filesystem with someone. I use Dropbox for myself, which usually suffices when I need to share a file. That said, it’s still part of the same ecosystem as Google Docs, which makes it hard to avoid if you use the former.
Privacy conscious analytics services seem to be en vogue these days, so it wasn’t difficult to find a replacement I liked. I picked Fathom and have been very happy with it. It’s $14 a month and you can put it on as many websites as you want; I have it powering both this site and SongRender.
There are a bunch of obscure metrics Google Analytics gives you that Fathom doesn’t have, but I’ve never missed them. Maybe I would if I were really into marketing data. But pageviews, uniques, referrers, time on site and bounce rate is enough for me.
This one is a little weird, since the differentiating factor between YouTube and competitors is content rather than a set of features. I’m not a big YouTube user so it doesn’t bother me too much, but if someone sends me a video there’s basically no way for me to see it elsewhere.
I’m rating this one “hard” because it’s basically irreplaceable, but as someone who doesn’t watch many YouTube videos anyway it doesn’t really affect me. Your mileage may vary!