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On Google

Since last year, I’ve made a real effort to reduce my dependency on Google products. Here is what I use(d) Google for:

  • Personal email.
  • Browser.
  • Search engine.
  • Photo storage.
  • Calendar.
  • Heating my house (how have we gotten here?)

Safe to say I depen(ded) on Google. It’s really easy for it to happen. Get this: I paid absolutely nothing for all of the above. Even the thermostat (Nest) was given to me for free as part of my heating system revamp, back in 2019.

Call me a cynic, but there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. I don’t mind using Google for a few of these things, just not all of them. I don’t think a single Google product is “evil”, but the amalgamation of it all feels “evil”. It’s just a bit too much.

I’m also aware that I depend on other companies, as well. I’m typing this from an Apple laptop. I have an Apple smartphone next to me. Those I find harder to replace, but I am also a firm believer that the business model between Apple and Google is… vastly different. I know how much a Macbook and iPhone costs. It’s not cheap. Also, my motivation here isn’t entirely about privacy.

Personal Email

This one wasn’t easy. I’ve been using Gmail for a long time now. I settled on a basic Fastmail subscription, with a custom domain. The challenge was migrating everything away from the old Gmail. I’m slowly getting there, though.

Browser

I migrated to Firefox and it’s been absolutely fine. The few times I miss the Chrome dev tools, I just fire a single window and use it for development. This happens very rarely though, Firefox development tools are pretty great. Extensions are also in a good place. I didn’t use a lot of them in Chrome, so I was happy to find that they all existed in Firefox as well.

I haven’t actively used Firefox since 2004-2005 (or something), so it feels nice to give it another ago.

Search Engine

Well, I didn’t expect this one to be so easy. I set my default Search Engine to Startpage and that was that. This one had an immediate impact as well, I could tell the search results were different (despite Startpage just fetching google results). Google Search has really become a nasty beast over the years. I highly suggest others to start using Startpage - It will take a while to get used to, but the impact is real. No more tailored ads, no more tailored results based on your previous searches. I honestly think Startpage makes Google Search into a better product.

Calendar

I don’t know why I used Google Calendar so much in the past, considering I basically only use Apple as my hardware. I guess it was a mix of using Gmail and, many years ago, using a Samsung Phone. It just carried over. I uninstalled Google Calendar and started using Apple Calendar. It’s been fine.


That leaves photo storage and heating. Photo storage I’m finding it quite hard to migrate away from. Honestly, Google Photos is a really good product from a UX perspective. I don’t even bother using the default Photos app anymore on my iPhone. Apple needs to step up their game here and just copy whatever Google is doing. Scrolling on Google Photos feels so intuitive, so easy to navigate through years of photos.

Heating. I guess I just haven’t researched enough. Google Nest isn’t even that good of product, in my experience. But it is convenient to turn the heating on preemptively before coming home. The app is terrible, though.

edit: as I post this, I’ve also remembered about Google Analytics. Which does run on this exact page. Oh well. One more thing to consider.

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