Can I Quit Google?

If you asked me a few years ago about Google, odds are I would talk your ear off about privacy, about how Google aggregates your life together in a manner you can’t imagine. Ask any co-worker at my last job before I left Austin – it’s true.

Yet while I’ve still held up my stance as someone concerned about online security and privacy… I’ve lowered my guard. I’ve used Google. I use Google a lot, actually.

But Google has been bugging me a lot too.

I have, as I said, lowered my guard. I use Google search all the time. It’s like a third lobe of my brain. But I have concerns about how little Google actually cares about our privacy as consumers. As a consumer who is also a professional with a focus on security and privacy, it isn’t in my best interest to use services from a company that data-mines every action we take, and is willing to only take a stand on cybersecurity initiatives when it suits their interests and their legal liability concerns (SOPA), not ours as consumers and American citizens (CISPA).

I’m also not a fan of Google+. I believe that in the end, history will show that Google made a pretty severe mistake when it decided to prioritize itself as a social network over search. Like many companies that hit middle age, and have an identity crisis, Google has lost focus. It has lost it’s way. For me, I’ve become too dependent upon the services of a company that seldom has my best interests in mind. In the end, Google is an advertising company with a search engine, not a search engine company that has advertising. Everything they do is about maximizing the amount of time we each spend online, and learning what it can about us to help provide more accurate advertising (to make more money).

To that end, I am beginning the process of weaning myself off of Google, one step at a time.

Luckily, I never fell in love with Gmail, Google Voice, or Google Docs. I tried Google+, but never liked the user interface. I tried Google Offers, but found them more useless than Groupon deals (that’s pretty bad).

Fundamentally, then, there are four ways I frequently use Google today:

  1. Google Search
  2. Google Reader
  3. Google Chrome
  4. Google Maps

I believe that I can replace all but the last one with relative ease. The last one is troublesome for me primarily because I have an iPhone and iPad. You can’t remove Google as the mapping provider. However, what I will do is start using Bing Maps on my work ThinkPad and my home Mac when I need maps there. For the iOS devices, as I’ve stated on Twitter before, I have a feeling something we might see this summer is a decreasing dependence upon Google for iOS mapping data. Time will tell.

So back to my list. For the first three items, I intend to spend one week changing over each – and by the end of May, with a few exceptions, I hope to have changed out my use of Google properties and Google software. We’ll see what happens.

For now, I’ve switched out the default search engine on my iPad and iPhone, as well as set the default search engine in Google Chrome (my default browser – for now) to be Bing. While I’d actually like to try an alternative engine like DuckDuckGo, it can’t be configured as the default on iOS today – so no go.

Next weekend, I’ll post an update on how my life without Google Search went for the week, and update you with my strategy to replace Google Reader – a tool I use every day for news aggregation. I’ve got my eye on a suitable replacement for Google Reader, though. Without a doubt, the hardest step for me will be the last actionable one in my list – getting rid of Google Chrome. But I have a few ideas about how I will do that too. Stay tuned.

  • Shiftoptionclick

    Good luck. I have tried Netvibes and other services to replace Reader but each time came back annoyed with the UI or the speed.