For a couple of years now, I have been weaning myself off of Google’s services. I am simply tired of volunteering my information for their algorithms and seeing it used to create a confirmation bias that is unhealthy in the long-term. Yes, there are other companies doing the same, but for the sake of this article, let’s focus on Google. Here’s a look at the services I’m using to avoid them.
I recommend Brave all the time. You get the Chrome engine without all the trackers. And on top of that, they have a new way of supporting publishers through the Basic Attention Token. There are a lot of details to this, but the overview is that it makes it possible to support the sites you visit without the need for ads on the website. This is why I have set up joebuhlig.com as a Brave Verified Creator. By joining Brave Rewards and reading my articles, you can support my writing.
This is an easy one. Replace Google search on all your devices. I’ve been using DuckDuckGo for almost two years now and I can say that it does an excellent job at finding what I need. I can only think of a few scenarios when I’ve used Google and those were for a reverse image search.
Visit the DuckDuckGo homepage on each device for links to install DuckDuckGo as your default.
It’s one thing to avoid Chrome and Google Search, but to avoid Google Analytics is a completely different ballgame. And it’s one that isn’t easily accomplished successfully. But the best way I’ve found to avoid the Google trackers (and many others) is to use NextDNS to filter the network information that goes to and from your browser. You can install ad blockers and such, but websites can bypass those if they work at it. If you use a tool like NextDNS, it stops the problem at the domain level.
I am trying to do my part in eliminating the cross-site tracking nightmare we find ourselves in. I have eliminated ads here on my blog. I have also switched away from Google Analytics to a self-hosted Matomo Analytics instance. That way the only tracking happening here is on a server that doesn’t talk to a central organization. In other words, when you visit joebuhlig.com, your data is only visible to me. And the data captured is only for determining which articles and pages are the most popular.
GSuite is the default answer for most folks in the tech space. And it seems Gmail is by far the most common email provider out there. So it’s not a simple task to get away from it. In my case, I have been using ProtonMail to do it. You can read about my move here, but the gist of it is that ProtonMail is a Swiss company that takes email privacy very seriously.
When you leave GSuite, you also lose Google Calendar. I had some issues with calendaring that I have learned came from the use of Google Calendar. Basically, sharing calendars took too long to sync. So I switched to iCloud calendaring and haven’t had any issues since. I’m not convinced this is the best way to protect my calendar data, but at the moment it works. So I’m not likely to keep looking for an alternative.
Google Drive is a tough one to pass when so many others assume you have it available. But about a year ago I set up a self-hosted Nextcloud instance and have been using it to share files almost weekly. I have been amazed by how well this works. The only qualm I have with this move is that you have to work with other people to make their Google Docs public or maintain a dummy Google account for collaborating on their work.
One aspect of Google that I haven’t been able to avoid is YouTube. I have a handful of channels that I like to keep up with and thus, I need a Google account to keep track of those. I could get by with skipping on this, but it is nice.
At the same time, Bookworm has a YouTube channel for posting new episode videos. It’s impossible to run a YouTube channel without a Google account. So that needs to stick around.
As for my own personal videos, I post those to Vimeo instead of YouTube.
The other outlier is Google Maps. The only real alternative I have found is Apple Maps and Apple has let me down many times here. So, for now, Google Maps remains.