Removing Google

Published: 2020-10-17 | Tags: Google bad IT setup

There are many other articles dealing with why someone would want to stop using products made by Google. I will not attempt to extensively discuss my motivation here since there are many better written articles about the problems that Google is causing. In a lot of the articles they discuss one or two services and how Google is bad, but most lack details on how to switch away from Google entirely. This is my attempt.

Below are the products from Google that I want to replace. They are in order of difficulty for me to replace. I have ranked them all from 1 to 10. 1 being trivial and 10 being very difficult.

Google search to DuckDuckGo Search

Search is, in my opinion, the easiest to replace. I would suggest just switching to DuckDuckGo. DuckDuckGo is a much smaller company that seems to be more focused on user privacy.

For a while after I switched to DuckDuckGo I was paranoid that somehow it was missing important things that Google search would have shown me. So, I would do the search in Google as well. However, I soon realized that the DuckDuckGo results were almost always just as good and stopped ever using the Google search. I do say almost as good, because Google search is definitely still better. However,DuckDuckGo is cleaner now that Google has 3-4 ads per search and the search quality is near that of Google.

Chrome

A few years ago I switched to Firefox from Chrome. The speed is very similar and Firefox is much better on protecting your privacy. I like the user interface a bit better too. Definitely worth the switch, especially if you are concerned about Google becoming a monopoly since they have such a dominant position in the browser space.

The only issues that I have faced are a very few sites that don't work quite as well on Firefox. Also, I think Chrome's dev tools are slightly better.

I hope that people will continue to use and support Firefox so that Google/Chrome/Chromium does not gain a complete monopoly in the browser space.

Google Maps

The main thing that Google maps provides that I have not found a great replacement for is location sharing. Obviously, I would prefer Google not to know my location, but the ability to share my location with my wife at all times is just too convenient for us. I would prefer to have an app that enabled end-to-end encryption of our locations to each other, but I do not know of something like this that exists currently.

For mapping alone, there is the Open Street Maps project. Sadly it is nowhere near as user friendly as the Google maps apps. A few problems with the OSM project app are: - When you start up the app is requires downloading 100's of megabytes of maps before the app will start up - You are not able to easily cancel the navigation. Several taps are required to stop the navigation. - Searching for my address does not bring up my address, but just a bunch of streets - To find an address you have to select city, then street, then number. My house number is not found. - The design is not great

However, it does seem like most of the features of Google maps are present in OSM. I do use it some, but hopefully it will continue to improve in the future. Google recently made huge changes to the use of their mapping API that made it impossible for a lot of websites to continue to use Google's mapping API. So, in the future, we might see a push away from Google maps.

Gmail

During college I had a University email with a short memorable address. However, after college it didn't seem appropriate to keep using it. I actually don't use email that much anymore, but it would be nice to not be dependent on google for the email that is used to recover all my accounts. There are numerous stories of Google suspending individuals accounts for random reasons and totally blocking them from accessing their email. So, I would prefer that not to happen.

After reading a lot about different options my 3 top options are: - Fastmail ($5 a month) - Protonmail ($5 a month) - MailInABox on a Digital Ocean server ($5-10 a month)

Fastmail seems like the best option due to being the easiest to use. However, ProtonMail might be a bit more secure. The problem with running your own mail server is that your email might get rejected as spam.

Update: Went ahead and purchased 3 years of Fastmail. What isn't advertised as much on their site is that if you buy several years at once they give you a big discount per month. When buying 3 years at once my price was $3.61 a month ($130 was 3 years). Definitely worth it.

The UI and apps are all pretty simple, but seem to work well enough. 30GB of storage is included and it seems like you can use that for anything, not just emails. So far I haven't gotten any spam. If you are interested they have a referral program

I did run into one issue however. While I was changing my accounts over to use the new email, Ebay would not let me update it to this domain:

Ebay update email page

Apparently, Ebay has some kind of filter that only allows you to change your address to certain things. I'm assuming like yahoo.com, gmail.com, etc. There are probably other sites that might have this issue, but I have not run into any yet.

Calendar

Fastmail provides a calendar with their email. I currently use my outlook calendar at work, but if I need to start having a digital calendar at home I will use the Fastmail one.

Keep

Google Keep was actually one of the hardest services to let go of. I used it quite frequently. Keep has a feature that lets you set a reminder to notify you at a certain date/time. Instead of just writing myself a note, I would use keep and set a reminder that would pop up as a notification in a few days or whenever I needed to remember about the note.

I switched to an app made by the developers of Wordpress called SimpleNote. It uses markdown syntax which is nice. However, it's main drawback is that it does not have reminders.

I also looked at apps like Todoist, any.do, and Microsoft todo. However, I really didn't want to make a Microsoft account for the Microsoft todo app, and I didn't want to pay $3 a month for the others. They also seemed like overkill for what I wanted.

The app that I finally decided to use for reminders is an open-source app called "tasks". Their website is tasks.org

Play Music

This is a good example of why to switch away from Google services. Eventually, Google will kill them anyway. Google is killing Play Music and replacing it with Youtube music. The most annoying thing to me about Youtube Music is that the app will not let you play music in the background without paying. I need a simple, free or cheap app to play music that I own. Sadly, up until now I have not found such an app on android. I just want something that organizes my music by artist and album and lets me play the music.

The app that I decided on is VLC media player. I didn't realize until I started looking that VLC had a mobile app. It seems simple enough and does what I want.

YouTube

Newpipe is an app that allows you to view Youtube videos without the ads (in addition to other features). I realized this is probably cheating a little bit, but it allows me to watch videos that people have uploaded to Youtube without all the annoyances of Youtube. For instance, the Newpipe app has no ads, doesn't autoplay videos, and lets you play videos in the background.

Hopefully, in the future there will be a popular video sharing platform that I can support directly, but until that time NewPipe is nice.

News

Google News is a lot harder to replace than I originally thought. There aren't a lot of good alternatives that I have found.Some alternatives exist like MSN,Apple, or Yahoo news, but those sites all seems unorganized to me.

I have instead been trying to go directly to the news organization sites rather than through Google News. Google is using Google News to force publishers to use their AMP standard. In short this means that users reading news through Google news never really leave Google's site, but just view the news through Google. So going directly to the publishers site is one way to help combat this.

Voice

When I first found out about Google Voice as a kid I loved it. We had one phone in the house (a landline) and want to call my girlfriend (now wife) without having to pay the ridiculous long distance fees. The first iteration of my setup was to have a SIP number that redirected to a chat client that I sideloaded onto my Nintendo DS. I could also type out messages one character at a time using the stylus. After Google Voice came out, everything was much easier. I could redirect my calls to the home phone, or my computer or other devices. Google Voice would also call you first to establish an outgoing call. So, I could have Google Voice call me and then have it connect to my girlfriend's families phone and not have to pay for long distance.

Over the years Google has really forgotten about Google Voice. It still works, but not as well as it used to. For the last 4 years or so what I have done is to use Google Voice and a data plan on my phone only (not paying for text/talk). I then make and receive calls and texts through Google Voice. A couple years ago, Google switch everyone from the Voice app to the Hangouts app. As of a few days ago, Google is killing hangouts. I don't know if Voice will survive the switch back to the old Voice app.

I already used US Mobile for data, so I am planning to port my number from Google Voice to US Mobile and just use them. I have not done this yet, because I have been busy, but will within the next month or US Mobile has really good customer service and their website is very user friendly. Definitely recommend them. It is about $20 a month for 2.5GB of data and unlimited talk and text. If you do end up signing up, my referral code is "WKLTNDJ" which will supposedly give me and the user both $10 of credit (up to 6 people).

Android

Sadly, the current choices for a smartphone are essentially Android or iPhone. I think that having an iPhone would be even worse than Android due to that fact that you cannot load applications of your choosing on the iPhone. The only apps that you can run are ones that Apple has allowed you to run (and has taken 30% of the revenue from). I wish there was another alternative.

I currently use the Essential Phone, which when it came out was one of the nicest phones. They had a lot of problems gaining traction in the market and eventually went out of business. The phone itself is well designed and the software works well. However, since the company went out of business the phone is no longer receiving updates and will become insecure and out of date.

A friend gave me a PinePhone as a gift. The one he gave me is the PostMarketOS version. I booted it up and played around with it for awhile. The UI is pretty slow and not that well designed, there are just a few apps, not much works correctly, and things crash every once in awhile. However, there are really cool things about it too. For instance, you can enable SSH on the phone and SSH in! You can be the root user on a phone that you own! What a crazy idea. Users should never be allowed to fully control their devices that they purchased. But really the phone is cool because it is basically running Linux on a phone. Definitely not ready to be used every day yet though.

So, it looks like I will be sticking with Android for now. Apple is currently facing a lot of scrutiny over their app store policies. If Apple is forced to open up its devices to applications that are not from the app store I will probably buy an iPhone to replace my phone.

Conclusion

Attempting to get rid of Google's products made me realize a couple things:

I should also say that I have a little more work to do. I still use Google Play to download apps for Android. Additionally, there are still a few parts of services I still use occasionally like maps and news. Hopefully in the future I will find good replacements for those products. I also hope that the PinePhone and PostMarketOS projects keep going and allow me to eventually switch to that setup for full time phone use.

Lastly, if you are at all interested in this I would say that the two easiest things you can do to reduce your reliance on Google and to help stop their monopoly on the web are:

Thanks for reading,

-Stephen