You Can’t Quit, I Dare You

Marco Arment:

Want to really stick it to them? Stop using Google. All of it. Search, Gmail, Maps, the works. Delete your account and start using Bing. Ready?

Yeah. That’s the problem. You won’t. I won’t. Nobody will.

After I read that I quipped to Marco (on App.net) that this is factually incorrect — as I have actually quit Google. To my surprise, many of the anti-free-therefore-paid-and-very-nerdy-advocate types on App.net chimed in that they had, or are, fully leaving Google too.

It’s not an easy thing to do, mostly because old habits die hard, but it is actually very possible.

Search

The easiest thing to do is to switch to Bing. While you can argue about how good the results are, I have been using Bing on iOS for over a year now and never once felt like I wasn’t able to find what I needed. Because there’s a difference between searching for something obscure and what most people use search for everyday. For the latter Bing is just as good (if not better, as the design is better looking on mobile), for the former you can make a case for Google, but it’s a close race.

Basic and intermediate-complexity searches are possible, with slightly less depth for the really deep searches when you need to find that one rant about that thing that no one else should remember.

That’s where my favorite search engine DuckDuckGo comes in. It’s fantastic.

You can easily use it on your Mac in Safari by changing your hosts file and in Chrome like so. I prefer DuckDuckGo for everything. It’s fast, accurate, and privacy conscious.

DuckDuckGo is the search engine with truly different results — meaning they’re different from the results at Bing and Google. Sometimes that’s fantastic, sometimes it just doesn’t work: The hardest thing is finding the address of a local business on DuckDuckGo.

There are options outside of Google. When was the last time you tried them?

Mail

I like to run my email on my server, but it’s a significant undertaking and I don’t recommend you do that.

I use iCloud for most personal email, but I have been testing a couple of different solutions to migrate to.

Hushmail is among the top contenders. They offer a free account that sucks, and then two paid accounts. Their pricing is a little obscure: for a basic 1GB account you pay $34.99, plus $14.99 for IMAP access, on a yearly basis. Not too bad, but I wish the storage was a bit more generous at this price point.

Among some miscellaneous privacy-voodoo for general emailing, Hushmail also offers encrypted email between other Hushmail users. The most important part, for me, is that they seem to take privacy seriously. (Note that Hushmail will turn over records to law enforcement when legally compelled to do so. But, being based in Canada means U.S. law enforcement agencies have to request, and Canada has to grant, that legal compulsion.)

Another thing I like is the business email option, where you can use your own domain name. Again, the pricing is very “up-sell-y”, but the service is private and seems stable to me. (It would cost a 5-person company $40-50 a month to use this, which is pricey [I guess, I have few references for that], but not Google.)

My advice: if you don’t care too much about privacy get an iCloud account. Otherwise there are plenty of online options — just be sure to do your research before switching.

Everything Else

The dust is still settling on the recent Google Reader/RSS debacle, but Feedbin.me, Fever, and NewsBlur are the top alternatives in my book.

As for online storage: Dropbox, iCloud or SkyDrive are all better than Google Drive, in my opinion.

That leaves calendars and productivity apps. To be honest I have no good solutions to replace the Google offerings, but then again, I never used Google’s offerings on that front.

Office 365 is pretty nice if you’re a Windows user but utterly pointless if you’re on a Mac. I don’t trust web apps for office-like tasks and much prefer native apps like Excel, Pages, Numbers, etc.

Money, Money, Money

Switching your search engine is easy, and free. But as you can see switching anything else is likely to cost you — usually a monthly fee.

And that seems to be the crux of people’s “ditching Google” hang up: Google makes a killing because people are willing to give up their privacy before handing over cash.

I’m fine with people using Google, and even loving Google, so long as they understand the trade-off. (Apparently I take that trade-off more seriously than most, so I choose to find privacy-conscious services, most of which happen to cost money.) I find that people either don’t believe there is a tradeoff or, more likely, don’t believe it’s as big of a deal as I think they should.

Originally posted for members on: March 25, 2013
Follow along on RSS, App.net, or Twitter.
~I would appreciate it if you considered becoming a member.~