The great un-googling
They said it couldn't be done — removing yourself from Amazon. In truth, it mostly can't. If you use almost any web-based service, you're using AWS. And if you're like me, stretched out across multiple different platforms, you probably use some of those. But we stopped shopping there, I got a Kobo, and we're on the way to replacing our smart speaker. Honestly? Not that hard. Prime video is about the only true difficulty, especially since they have Star Trek
So, riding high on this pseudo-victory, I have declared I'm going to remove Google from my life.
Here's the deal, though. I've read posts like this from people more tech-savvy and smarter than myself, and I don't think I can go that hard. It sounds... tough. I just want to stop depending on them, stop letting them see everything I do, and generally stop supporting them. There are so many reasons out there for doing so, but that's not what this is about. This is about a quest for alternatives to the company that practically wrote the book on doing stuff in the browser.
Once you start cataloging it, there's a lot. And some are just gonna have to slide, no doubt about it, but I'll get there eventually. Here's where I'm at with alternatives.
- Gmail. I looked at Proton, which is great if you really want to get into the extremes of privacy, and a few others, before settling on Fastmail. Fastmail won out for its UI, pricing to storage ratio, and inclusion of a calendar. Some friends' recommendations sealed that deal. Fastmail also features alias boxes, which can send or receive mail, and those are helping me get rid of the numerous random Gmail boxes in addition to the main one.
- Docs. At the end of the day, I so rarely need a word processor and almost any will work. My personal hangup about docs is that I usually want structure rather than WYSIWYG layouts. It's a big part of why I use
NotionObsidian and frankly in most cases I'll just publish a PDF out of there. I write my post drafts in there since it's Markdown. But Apple's Pages online and MS Word online are totally fine, and more recently I found the hosted version of open-source OnlyOffice. As a bonus, it's a great replacement for the aging and frustrating LibreOffice on the Linux desktop.
- Sheets. When Google Sheets launched, it was insane. Zoho had done it, but not well, and that's about it. There are all kinds of great tools out there now that make a spreadsheet seem quaint, but sometimes you just need a spreadsheet. It's still the "killer app." And the originator is still pretty good at it. Excel online is a little more computer-intensive, but it does the thing well and doesn't get into other stuff. Coda is a possibility, but the learning curve is steep, and I've seen recommendations for Airtable but as cool as it is (I use it for a few things) it's really a different animal. OnlyOffice wins again, for anything that needs more math and fewer relationships than I would handle with Airtable.
- Drive. My god, it's full of storage. There are so many alternatives out there it's not even worth it. If you want to use the same provider as your docs or sheets, then go with Microsoft or Apple. If privacy is your main value, try pCloud or Mega. I've personally gone with pCloud because of its media capabilities and generous size (not to mention its charmingly rough edges and desktop Linux integration), but my eggs are well distributed among many baskets.
- Photos. Unlike email, there just aren't a lot of low-cost storage options for photos. Flickr has been so fucked-with for so long since Yahoo! took over that I can't make heads or tails of where they're going with it, and most services (that aren't AMZ) are geared toward photographers, not regular folks backing up their stuff. So for now, I have nothing except redundant external drives and possibly a larger pCloud plan.
- Chromebook. Obviously Google tracking your entire operating system is not super ideal. However, this was easier to resolve than I expected. Crouton makes it easy to install a Linux environment with xfce. I'm still tweaking but it's working pretty well, especially considering my Chromebook runs on a Rockchip, which I think is like an ARM?
The world of technology used to be this way. We used the best provider for each service or application. The idea of going to a one-stop shop is relatively new. Yeah, it makes things simple, but if the price for turning computing devices into dead-simple consumer electronics is all my privacy, I'm going to try to roll my own life.