Google Services I'm Stuck With (For Now)

I used to merrily sign up to any new service that Google created. The company still espoused its “Don’t be evil” motto, and the concept of privacy had yet to feel like something we had taken for granted.

Things are different now. We’ve become more aware of how much of our private lives are floating from server to server, trading between data brokers to make a whole bunch of people – but not us – rich.

There is plenty of criticism of Google and it all affects how I feel about the company, but one of the big concerns is having all my eggs in one basket.

We’ve already seen the company change when it is financially secure, imagine what they’ll do when things start going bad for them (every empire goes down at some point, it’s just a matter of time).

De-Googling

I have a background process in the depths of my mind whose task is to cut away from Google, little by little.

The process wakes up once in a while, possibly triggered by something scary I read about the big company and its treatment of data, and it takes a step to cut another thread.

Here is where I made some progress:

Gmail

I got my own domain and a Fastmail account. I haven’t killed the gmail, I figure I’ll need it as long as I have and Android phone, but I have changed my email on many services and told all of my friends to write me there.

Google is first and foremost a search engine, but its results are sometimes a letdown. I think search is due for a disruption, but that’s a different post. For now I use DuckDuckGo as my primary search engine, and fall back to Google when DDG fails me, as it does fairly regularly.

Browser

I tested out Brave for a while, though I am unsure about their plans for serving me ads. I still use it on my tablet for some reason, but all other devices have switched to FireFox.

FF works well. There are a few concerns about the way they treat private data as well, so I’m keeping an eye on them.

Stuck With Google

OK those three were big ones. But this next list is depressingly long: these are the services and devices I have made no progress replacing.

Android

I could wait for Linux phones (Librem, Pinephone) to become viable, but I’m afraid that’s going to take a long time.

A good camera and excellent camera software is important to me, so any off-brand thing is likely to disappoint.

The only reasonable option is an iOS device, probably. Hopefully Apple continues to differentiate itself from Google by valuing privacy, and hopefully it’s genuine and not a marketing pitch. Of course we can’t really know because everything is closed with them. Urgh.

I think my first move will be to replace my aging Lenovo with an iPad, despite how much I love that weird thing. Then I’ll decide how I feel about iOS and the Apple walled garden for a phone.

Photos

This is the other big one. Every photo I take on my Pixel goes into my Photos, so if I lose my phone none of the priceless memories of my growing daughter are lost. That’s huge.

Apart from jumping head first in Apple’s garden-of-loveliness-with-giant-walls, I don’t know what the other options are. I’m sure there are some, I just haven’t looked yet. The background process hasn’t perked up on this one yet.

Maps

I use Google Maps a lot. Their maps and navigation are pretty darn good. Google’s product integration here is enticing: if I get an email about a hotel reservation, that hotel gets a callout in Maps with the reservation. Now that, is a good reason to read my mail.

I looked for a few alternative navigation and map apps but none seemed to hold a candle to big G for that function.

Again if I jump into Apple’s planters I can easily solve the maps problem, but then I’d have to ask myself: am I too deep in Apple’s mulch? Will I have to write a post like this in a few years about how I need to pole-vault my way out of their yard?

Chromecast

This one is really convenient. Anything that is on any of our Android devices can instantly be played in the living room. I know there are alternatives, and among them, again, there is Apple. I think as long as I’m on Android, the Chromecast stays.

Play Music

I used to be on Spotify, which was OK, but I got on Play Music in large part because paying for it removes the ads from YouTube. I hate ads, and I am glad I can watch YT in the evenings and never hit an ad. This one is going to stick around for a while.

We’ll see how much Google is able to botch their music service though. It seems to be one of their most unloved products, and I am not looking forward to the impending migration to YouTube-Music.

Will I Ever

With the list above as long as it is, and with each service a struggle of compromise, or a head-first dive into some other mega-corp’s yard, I’m not terribly optimistic about my De-Google future.

For some services it doesn’t matter really: I don’t care if they know what music I listen to, and I am not going to quit YouTube as long as they have all the best content.

For others, I was able to make a change by doing some research and spending the time it takes.

Keep working, little background process.

This was day 12 of the #100DaysToOffload challenge.

Olivier Forget

Los Angeles, USA
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Aerospace Engineer turned sofware developer and bootstrappin' entrepreneur.