This is the story of my first attempt to cut ties with Google products and services. I am sure many of you are in the same situation and may not even know it, so I thought I would share my experience with you. Before you read this, I must warn you: You may be more addicted to Google than you think!
Google started very small in 1998. It was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin while they were students at Stanford University. In 2004 it became a publicly traded corporation and in the years since then it has become a giant. It didn’t dominate the world market by standing on the sidelines hoping people would use its search. It was able to expand to the size it is today by actively engaging it’s users and providing the best tools and services available to connect every part of life together. From productivity tools for work to music and movies for home, Google has it all. They have been able to successfully integrate digital life into real life better than any other company. No one does it as good as Google. They drive even more users in by making almost all of it available to you free of charge, and they were doing this before anyone else, giving them the head start. There is a downside to using Google though. Since 2004 Google has been primarily an advertising company raking in billions. When you integrate your life with their products, you are giving them free reign over your private information which they use to serve you advertisements related to things you search for, emails you send and receive, music you listen to, movies you watch, where you work and where you live if you use an Android phone, the list goes on and on. This is how they are able to keep their services free. Their services are not the product. We as consumers are the product. Knowing how much information Google knows about me is scary. They know it all, and once you get sucked into the Google ecosystem there may be no easy way out.
I was in my late teens when the internet became publicly and cheaply available; and while I never had a shortage of things to do on the internet, it does not even compare to what it became after Google. It all started with search. They designed and created the fastest and most accurate search on the web, and was so widely used because of this. The phrase “search it” was soon replaced by “google it” in many households. In 2003 Google acquired Blogger, a service for publishing blogs which are still very popular today. 2004 was the year of no turning back for me. This was the year Google released Gmail on an invite only basis. After waiting months for an invite, I finally got one and have been using Gmail ever since. Gmail was and still is one of the best email services around. Its user friendliness and fresh look made it very popular along with its features. Since 2004 Google has consistently added additional features to Gmail and tied more of their products into it. They added the calendar, Google Chat and Video Chat, Filters and more ways to organize/save emails, increased email storage (and way more than anyone else ever offered). Google also made all their non-Gmail products easily accessible through your one Gmail Login. In 2005 Google Maps came around and this became my primary source for directions because of its accuracy and effective route planning. Sometime after 2006 was when Google picked up YouTube. I never really used YouTube much other than to watch people doing stupid things, but despite my minimal use YouTube became the largest video sharing site worldwide. It was in 2008 that the first Android phone
(G1) was released, and by then I was already using so many of Googles products, I thought that this would be a good route to go and bought one. They made it so convenient by offering me quick access to all my favorite products on the go, all in one place. I have not owned a non-Android phone since. Since 2008 they have added many more products that I have adopted into my life such as; Google Drive, Music, Movies, Books, NewsStand, Wallet, Docs and many more including their own Chrome web browser. Unless you still live in the stone age you probably know that they have their own operating system called Chrome OS based on their Chrome browser and Linux. They even gave me a free Chrome OS CR-48 which didn’t help my addiction. Google is now a one stop shop for just about everything I do on a daily basis.
I am now older and in recent years have been much more concerned about my privacy. When I was younger all I cared about was the free product and how convenient it all was. Now I am regretting it. After getting tired of having everything I do processed and tracked by Google, I decided that it was time to breakup with them. To do this, I started simple. I ditched Google Chrome as my browser and moved over to Firefox, then I switched my default search engine to duckduckgo.com. I did this on both my PC and my Android phone. Switching to Firefox is easy but not using Google search is more difficult. Duckduckgo does not track your searches, but is not anywhere near as good as Google. However, it would have to do if I wanted my privacy back. The next steps I would have to take would be to find alternatives to Gmail, Drive, Music, Maps, Keep, Movies, YouTube, Docs, Books, Games and every other Google product I use. YouTube is easy for me to ditch because I never really use it much. I only have two of my own videos on it. Here is what I found while trying to cut ties with their other products. While there are replacements for each one of their apps, they generally don’t work as well, and no other service integrates them together as well as Google. Most of the other large providers out there that even come close to competing such as Microsoft or Amazon have not shown much in the way of privacy that would make me feel much better about switching to them. Breaking up with Google was going to be harder than I imagined. Every service that I wanted to eliminate caused issues for me. For example, I wanted to eliminate my personal Google plus page however I could not do that because my plus page for this site is tied to that. Then I thought I would eliminate Drive but found out that no one else offers storage for the large amount of downloads I host on this site with the same amount of bandwidth for free like Drive does. Breaking up with Google was starting to remind me of the Seinfeld episode “The Strong Box” Where George tries to break up with his girlfriend multiple times and she throws up resistance every time causing George to give up on his breakup plans. I could get rid of Google Music, but I have too many songs to store on my device so I would loose the convenient streaming and would loose the space I use on my device for other things. I started using Copilot to replace Google Maps but again I am losing space on my device to store the maps. There are streaming map services such as MapQuest but I found them to be inferior to Google Maps. I can’t get rid of Google Movies unless I am willing to lose all the movies I already own because Google does not offer the ability to download them for use with other players and they don’t offer Ultraviolet compatibility. The same goes with Google Books (Yes… I know there are hacks to remove DRM from books but breaking DRM is illegal). So just like George, this story does not have a good ending, I have now given up trying to Breakup with Google completely. I will keep looking for alternatives in the future that are better for my privacy but I am currently feeling de-motivated after my first attempt at ending this relationship. I am addicted and if I can’t ditch Google completely then what is the point? They will still have data from whichever service I use that I can’t replace or services that are not cost effective to replace. For now I will keep my leash on and continue with my life. I hope that most of you are less tied to Google than myself and can successfully breakup with Google and not be sent back to the stone age of technology in the process.