Un-Google Yourself With These Alternative Tools
Now that I banned Google on my blog I feel more confident about becoming independent from Google.
You don't have to be an anti-SEO self improvement guru who wants to live a perfect life to realize that Google is a problem.
Google encroaches you from everywhere, knows and controls almost everything you do on the Web.
Despite being aware of it I had a really scary moment recently when Google started to advertise medication to me on completely unrelated sites about technology. Why? I didn't tell Google that my wife was sick and what exactly was wrong with her so how the hell the Google spies found out? The scariest thing was that it happened on a clean browser where I delete cookies, including Google cookies after each session. So how did they know?
In fact I didn't even want to find out anymore. I was scared enough that they knew it already. It just showed that it was about time to finally act and un-Google myself for real. I have tried to become independent from Google over the years as the corporation gradually became scarier over time. It's not just that
- Google co-authored CISPA (a SOPA and ACTA twin)
- works together with the RIAA to censor the Web
- it sold hundreds of millions worth of illegal drugs ads and got away with a fine.
There is a myriad other reasons to stop trusting Google. I won't list them here anymore. In case you still love Google you probably do not even want to know.
Today I want to focus on the viable and often better alternatives to popular Google products and services. You can un-Google yourself with these tools. Here is a list of Web tools that are often even better than their Google counterparts. You can even greatly improve your Web experience using these Google alternatives.
Google search - Blekko
I was a big fan of Blekko since day one. I was so active during their beta phase that they even sent me a t-shirt. I still wear it a lot. Blekko not only offers spam-free search is full customizable and open. You can look up statistic for each site to find out why it ranks where it does etc. Google had even to fight spam and offer secure search as a reaction to Blekko and its innovations. Blekko is still tiny but I use it as my main search engine whenever I can (sadly it's English only as of now).
Gmail - Zoho Mail
I have a Gmail address but I use Zoho to manage my mail accounts. I've never used Gmail for more than newsletters or as an spam-filter. I use it to register with online tools and services so that my mail mail address stays clean. I only scan my Google mails when I have some time left. Many people use Gmail as their min Google address. They get distracted by contextual ads while writing private messages.
Many business people sue Gmail also for their business mail despite Google being a US company so that it's subject to the Patriot Act. Thus all kinds of US government agencies are allowed to read your mail. Gmail got even "hacked" via a built in backdoor for the CIA. Zoho Mail offers business mail as well and it's an Indian company.
Google Reader - Netvibes
I've been using Netvibes for several years now as my RSS reader. It's much more than that. It's basically your own personal Internet "portal" if you want. You can add whatever you like to your Netvibes frontpage. It has tabs so that I can easily switch from one topic to another.
I have SEO blogs, architecture blogs and self improvement blogs each on a separate page/tab for example. Netvibes is a French company so at least the US government does not know what you read at a regular basis. Google kills iGoogle so Netvibes is the best alternative here as well.
Google Analytics - Piwik
I love Piwik for it's ease of use. After the multiple redesigns and feature additions Google Analytics is by now very difficult to use even for advanced users like myself. Features that have been there for years have been removed or displaced so that you won't find them anymore. The additional ongoing feature creep made GA so complex that it is difficult to use even for those who have started with the latest version. On top of that GA is run by Google so you give up your data to the competition.
Remember that Google competes in search results with you in most lucrative sectors like travel or ecommerce. So when you show them how much money you make next year they will make the money instead of you. Piwik is an open source self hosted Google Analytics alternative where you own and control the data.
Google Webmaster Tools - Bing Webmaster Tools
By using Google Webmaster Tools you let Google know everything about your site. Google knows who you are and what other sites you own as well. Google sends threats over Webmaster Tools telling you that you have to remove some links or face a penalty but without telling you what links actually can hurt you.
Most of the data that Google Webmaster Tools offers Bing Webmaster Tools does show as well but you don't depend on Bing traffic. The risk of giving up valuable information to your competition is not there either as Microsoft is rarely a competitor in search. Sure, the own sites like Ciao for shopping search but Google has axed them long ago before they pushed their own shopping search results to the top.
Google Docs - Zoho Writer
When Google acquired Writely to turn it into Google Docs I already used Zoho Writer. I switched for a while until I've read the Google Docs TOS which stated that you give up Copyright for all documents published on Google Docs. So I returned to Zoho Writer again. I use it to this day. It has more features than Google Docs. Also there are plenty of other tools known from Office software for spreadsheets, presentations etc.
Blogger - Tumblr
I've tested Blogger around 2001 for the first time. I didn't use it for blogging though. I ended up using WordPress over the years. By now Blogger is owned by Google for several years and it still hasn't improved much. It's not versatile like WordPress but it's difficult to use nonetheless.
In recent years the mini-blogging platform Tumblr has filled the void between Blogger and WordPress. Tumblr is really easy to use but offers lots of customization options once you get into it. The best thing about Tumblr is its community though. It's almost like Facebook but for cool people. You don't have to use your real name so the content shared there differs significantly from boring Facebook.
YouTube - Vimeo
I live in Germany so in recent years I couldn't watch most YouTube videos. Most of them have been blocked by Google for copyright violations. This way Google tried to force the German music industry to grant them licenses. Also for movie makers there was always the problem with the limited length YouTube allows. You can't upload a movie as a whole. You can do this on Vimeo.
Additionally there are no ridiculous copyright restrictions for videos containing music. Last but not least Vimeo is easier to use, has a much better design and lacks the obnoxious comments that are common on YouTube.
Google Chrome - Firefox
Firefox was the best browser on the Web long before Google Chrome appeared. Despite Chrome being officially Open Source Firefox is the only non-corporate and thus truly open Web browser. I still use Firefox mostly, especially for work. Privately, that is during leisure time, I use a spyware free version of Chrome called Iron that does not call the Google mothership even before you hit enter on your search query. For professional users Firefox is still the best option.
I know there are even better open source alternatives for some of the above but I wanted to show you those most similar to the actual Google products. What Google service do you use that you nee a viable alternative for? Tell me in the comments and I will try to provide one.
Do not let yourself get covered by all the Goo from Mountain View.
Google doesn't care about you. They want your data to sell it to advertisers. The US government has access to it as well. So if you care at least a bit about privacy you should opt out now of the Google empire. I know it's difficult, I still use many Google tools on others projects but I will gradually "sunset" the Google addiction. It's like giving up a bad habit, smoking or drinking alcohol. While at it it's difficult but afterwards you feel much better.
You don't have to boycott Google. It's like the occasional beer with friends, it's OK. I have to use Google tools for my work so I can't go Google-free completely but I am on the way to become independent of it.
* Creative Commons image by Steve Atwell.