Goodbye Google (part 2)

Now that I’ve made the decision to de-Googlefy myself, I’m faced with determining exactly what that means and how to do it. I was heavily invested in Google products and untangling is proving to be a good deal more work than I expected. Let’s break it down into categories:

Authentication:

Using Google or Facebook to log in to sites, rather than having to remember a username and password combination for every site and service I used, was extremely convenient. I hadn’t noticed just how reliant on this service I was. Oddly enough, the Heartbleed fiasco pushed me to find an answer to a problem I didn’t even know I had. Heartbleed forced me to look at how frequently I was re-using passwords across different accounts and take action to fix it. I wound up signing up with Lastpass and generating random-ish passwords for every account. Using Lastpass, I have all the convenience of using a Google login without having to use Google.

E-Mail:

This one was trickier than I expected. I don’t have any interest in running my own mail server, so I looked for a web mail service that was free, supported user domains, had adequate storage and security, and had their own app for my phone. There are fewer services out there that do all of this than I expected. I really wanted to use GMX but their lack of support for user domains meant they weren’t an option. I would up going with Zoho, a business services provider out of India. They have a really ugly logo, an interesting suite of services I have no use for at this time, but their free mail supports user domains. They don’t have an app, but they do support a Microsoft Exchange-style push, so Zoho does everything I need it to do.

Blogs:

Obviously, I’m here and not on Blogger, so this was a change I made quite a while back. I love WordPress, but there’s one teensy little thing I don’t like. The dashboard (both the wordpress.com and self-hosted versions) uses Google fonts, which might as well mean it has embedded tracking built in, and there’s currently no good way to disable or block these Google API calls. I’d like to fix this, but for the time being, I’m willing to live with it. The theme I use does NOT use Google fonts, so anyone reading this who isn’t logged in to WordPress shouldn’t be affected.

Social Media:

I’m not even going to bother re-linking my experiences with Google+. Suffice it to say, I’m not a fan. My account there has been deleted. I’m not on Facebook or MySpace either. I adore Twitter, and use it quite a bit. I have a LinkedIn page that just mirrors this blog because I think it’s funny that WTF Pancakes has a LinkedIn account. I recently added a Tumblr just so I can interact more easily with Tumblr users. Like the LinkedIn account, it’s just a mirror of this blog.

Browsers and Search Engines:

I was a Chrome user and a big fan of Google’s search, so this one hurt a little, but not as much as I expected. The latest version of Firefox is very, very slick and a huge improvement over what I’d seen in the past. Of course, as soon as I move over, I see they’ve decided to accept DRM support, which means I may be switching again soon.

I decided to go out on a limb with my search engine and set DuckDuckGo as my default. The privacy features were the primary selling point. I’m still not quite used to it, but I haven’t had any trouble finding anything yet, so it does the job just fine.

RSS Reader:

For something as simple as RSS, you’d think that attractive options would abound. You’d be wrong to think that. I’m using Feedly now, and it’s fine, but honestly, it’s not as quick or as reliable as the old GReader. It does look very nice. I don’t think Feedly is going anywhere, so I’m planning on sticking with it.

Phone:

Oh boy…haven’t been able to sort this one out yet. There are two big problems here. I’m kind of stuck with my Android phone for the time being and you can’t get more Google than Android. The other problem is that I haven’t found a reasonable substitute for Google Voice. I’m still working on this one. Do any of you have any experience with Blackphone?

Miscellaneous:

I’m using OpenStreetMaps now instead of Google Maps and it works fine and feels less…intrusive…than Google maps. My music is on Amazon. I’m using Yahoo Messenger as my chat client. It actually works a lot better if you don’t use Yahoo mail (which is one of the reasons I went with Zoho). I never had a Chrome OS device, so there’s no replacement needed there. My photos are stored…elsewhere….we’ll come back to that later. 

I think that’s about it. One of my key goals was to make my services as distributed as possible. This keeps me from being too dependent on one provider and should make data gathering just a little bit less convenient. I think I’m very close to being about as Google free as I can be.

I should point out that I’m not, and probably never will be, completely out of Google’s reach. Google can read most of my mail because Gmail is so pervasive these days. Most mail I receive is from Gmail. It’s really hard to tell when web sites you visit have Google analytics or fonts or what-have-you baked in to them.

So, that’s where I am right now. I have the EFF’s marvelous Privacy Badger chewing up as many tracking cookies as it can (and it has a very voracious appetite). I feel…good? Yeah, that’s the word: Good. This process wasn’t terribly difficult and it made me much more mindful of my own online habits. So, if you’re thinking about leaving a company that’s providing most of your online services, take heart: If I can do it, so can you.

 

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