DeGoogling my life

I have mixed feelings about Google. On the one hand their search engine is next to ubiquitous, most browsers come with it as the default, and they also have some pretty excellent services. On the other hand, and perhaps this is my Apple synapse firing, I see them as a new enemy, and one that isn’t doing much to try and win me over.

In the past few years a few Google services that I have used (and some that I didn’t) have been axed. The likes of Reader, Latitude, XMPP, CalDAV (actually it appears they have revised this), and ActiveSync for rival platforms have all been killed off or rolled into Google’s social networking site: Google Plus. They’ve forked WebKit into a new project (Blink), to which there are pros and cons. We’re even seeing services and applications being built solely for Google Chrome (OK, “More browsers coming soon”…), which is damaging for an open internet. My biggest issue here is email: if Google decided to turn off IMAP/SMTP I would be forced to use whatever app Google wanted me to use - be that the GMail app for iPhone, webmail, etc. I’d have to stop using what I wanted in order to keep using my email.

Although Google services are free, we all know that they aren’t really. Google (and others) collect data about you and sell it on - hence they can afford to keep making cool stuff and give it away for ‘free’.

The problem with using for a ‘free’ service is that you haven’t invested any money into the service, the provider owes nothing to you. The other problem is what data is being collected about you, who is that data being sold to, and what might that data tell them (rightly or wrongly!)

Given the above, I have decided the distance myself from Google. Some of the services that Google offer are still of use to me and there aren’t the same, ubiquitous, services available elsewhere (e.g. translate). I have cut away from Chrome, Gmail, and even Google Search.

Today I surf the web using Safari at home and Firefox at work, I use DuckDuckGo to search the web, and for email I’ve subscribed to Zoho which allows me to use my own domain name. My mapping needs are adequately met using Apple’s Maps. Apart from Google Translate, I’m not sure there is much I use Google for anymore. It’s been a fairly long road, and there is further I can push it, perhaps by taking what I’ve learnt to sacrifice and further distancing myself from companies that do/may gather personal data (anonymised or otherwise).

There are likely some usages that are either out of my control, or where I’d have to more deeply customise my computer setups, where various services pull/push data to/from Google behind the scenes, but for the time being I’m not going to let that worry me.

Bootnote: This blog post was drafted back in 2013 when I started to “deGoogle” my life. I’ve quickly zipped through and updated a few bits.