The De-Google-fying of my online life…

My Retreat from Google

A few weeks back I posted about my Return to Google following my move away from it in 2012. I have been growing increasingly wary of Google’s creepiness, especially relating to its free offerings and the fact that it is collecting enormous amounts of data which it uses to filter search results, and to sell to advertisers.

At the time, I had decided that I was perhaps overdoing things a little, so decided to allow Google back into my life in some areas, while spreading out my data. And using paid Google services where possible. Just 4 days later, Google announced the closure of Google Reader, along with discontinuation of several other services/products. I, like many users, was disappointed with this.

Inspired at least in part by Ben Brooks’ post You Can’t Quit, I Dare You, written in response to Marco Armant’s post Your favorite Thursday sandwich, I have taken on the challenge of De-Google-fying my online life to as a great an extent as is feasible. Marco made the provocative statement:

Want to really stick it to them? Stop using Google. All of it. Search, Gmail, Maps, the works. Delete your account and start using Bing. Ready?

Yeah. That’s the problem. You won’t. I won’t. Nobody will.

Now I would have to agree that it is virtually impossible to completely remove Google from your life, because they are ubiquotous and deeply embedded into so much of the online culture. But I think it is important that we pay careful attention to where we store our data, and what information we give freely (perhaps in return for a free service) to any single company or organisation.

For me, that means that I am de-Google-fying[1] to a large extent. Here’s where I am at so far:

Search


My preference is to use DuckDuckGo wherever possible due to its well regarded privacy policy. I have made it my default search in both Safari and Firefox. Firefox makes it easy to do so, by way of an extension. With Safari I had to edit the hosts file to make DuckDuckGo the default search engine.

My iOS devices now use Bing as the default engine. I have also installed and use a DuckDuckGo action for Drafts, and use the DuckDuckGo app for iOS.

Email

All of my email (from multiple domains) redirects into my Fastmail account – a paid service. As my Google Apps subsriptions expire, I will direct the domains directly into Fastmail, and bypass Google altogether. I no longer use Google for a front end. I also use the CloudPull app to grab all my historical data down from Google.

I am using Airmail as my front end email client on OSX, and the native iOS Mail app.

Calendars and Contacts

All have moved back to iCloud. I look forward to full 2 factor security for all iCloud data, along with all other Apple ID related services.

Documents

I wasn’t a huge user of Google Docs, at least in recent times, and instead use Dropbox and, to a lesser extent, iCloud. CloudPull has ensured that I have my historic documents.

RSS Reader

I have moved back to my own Fever installation. I had been using Fever for a while, but moved back to Google Reader due to the limited number of front end apps for Fever, particularly on OSX and for iPad. I am using the excellent Reeder app which supports Fever on iPhone[2], and I am using the browser interface on OSX and iPad for now. Rumour has it that Ashes app is being rebuilt to support Fever on all iOS devices[3].

RSS Feed Redirection

I have moved all of my website RSS feeds away from Feedburner to Maxime Valette’s uri.lv service. I’ve taken on a Premium account for the additional services, and so that I can support the developer.

Maps

Another easy one for me, at least on my iDevices. I’ve gone back to Apple Maps. They’ve improved in many areas, and it’s up to users to keep using and providing feedback so they continue to improve. I don’t use maps on desktop that much, and will probably use Google for that wherever needed. I’ll reconsier if and when Apple comes out with a true alternative.

Google Earth

I love this app, and do use it some of my training activities. I’ll probably keep using it. As a standalone app, it’s not really that connected to the big picture view of the data stream coming in.

Social Networking

I am not a big fan of Google+. In some respects G+ represents the essence of the so-called creepiness factor about Google. My social networks of choice are App.net and Twitter, and I rarely use Facebook or Google+, although I do have accounts.

G+ has some fantastic photo sharing capabilities, and some wonderful groups for photographers. With that said, Flickr is still my preferred photo sharing site.

The thing I do like about G+ is the hangouts. So I keep it around mostly just for that.

Youtube

I surf Youtube. I have a paid Vimeo account for hosting and sharing my own videos.

Browsers

I use Safari and Firefox as my browsers of choice. Neither are logged into any Google account. I use Chrome exclusively for Google, Google+ and Youtube.

Authenticator

Google provides an excellent app called Google Autheticator, which allows you to establish and access 2 factor passwords for a variety of services. At this time, I haven’t found an alternative that I feel comfortable switching to. Since I don’t have to logon to a Google account to use the app, it’s a standalone island on my iPhone. So I am not uncomfortable using it, as I don’t believe Google to be likely to gather or maliciously use this data.

AdSense

Played around with this some time back on a couple of my sites. I’d rather do selected, targeted promotions of offerings I like and use through referal programs and/or sponsorships.

Analytics

My sites are on Squarespace or are self-hosted WordPress sites. I get all the analytics I need from the built in Squarespace tools or the Jetpack analytics on WP.

AdWords

I have used these on occasion for my Karate Dojo in Sydney and my scuba instructor training courses. I probably will again.

Conclusion

It’s still early days, but I have already moved substantially away from Google. I feel comfortable that my data is more distributed, largely amongst service providers who are committed to providing quality products, at a fair price and with an appropriate level of security/privacy.

I am not trying to “stick it to” Google. For many years I was a major Google advocate, and in fact encouraged others to adopt Google services. I don’t regret this – it was the right choice at the time. But times, people and organisations change. They continue to do a lot of good things, but some fundamentals have changed, causing me to reconsider my own stance.

Gabe Weatherhead expressed his reasons for his move away from Google beautifully in his post Getting Off the Google Juide:

Why go to this effort? Is this a conspiracy? No. Google is just being true to their mission: provide ever increasing information to advertisers so as to increase adverting revenue. I just don’t feel like being part of that. I’d rather pay for anonymity and data privacy. Google has not earned my trust and Apple, DuckDuckGo and Wolfram have.

I am simply (and similarly) taking ownership of my own data and online identity. In so doing, I want to to support providers who support users, and who have “earned my trust”. I hope others will consider these factors and make appropriate decisions. For those that choose free products, from Google or any company, I would encourage them to consider the true price of free.

I’d be interested to hear your views – are you de-Google-fying? To what extent? What apps/services have you adopted to replace Google services? Let me know in the comments.


  1. I am not trying to create a new word using a Google trademark. I’ll leave that to the Swedes
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