by Omar Romero

Replacing Google

I'm sorry Google, but it wasn't working out. It's not me, it's you

I’ve moved away from all of the Google services I was using: Gmail, Reader, Search, Analytics, and Maps. I never used Docs, Picassa or Calendar so those services are not contemplated here.

Why replace all of those fine Google services? They are free after all! Well, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Google offers you what you think are free services so that they can gather information and create a profile about what you search for, where you do business, who are your friends, where you live, etc. Then, they take this information and create a detailed profile about you, nicely package it and sell it to advertisers, use it to show you ads and any other purposes they see fit. In a way, they know you better than you know yourself. There are many examples where Google’s knowledge about you can prove creepy. But don’t take my word for it, instead, see what Eric Schmidth says about Google:

With your permission you give us more information about you, about your friends, and we can improve the quality of our searches. We don’t need you to type at all. We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.

All this data that Google gathers about its users, and how they use it, is the reason why I moved away from their “free” services.

I value my privacy and If I want to share information about me, I’ll do it on my own terms and to the people or companies I choose to and trust. I have a problem with being tagged and tracked like a FedEx parcel and I don’t want anyone eavesdropping on my emails or looking over my shoulder and reading the articles I’m reading. I know Google is in the business of targeted advertising and such, but there is a line that I won’t allow them to cross.

So, here is what I’ve come up to avoid using Google:

Duckduckgo is a web search engine that protects your privacy. They do not track or collect any personal information. It’s not as good as Google, but they are getting there. Unfortunately, I still rely on Google for obscure and very specific searches that don’t provide any good results on duckduckgo. Let’s face it: Google still delivers the best search results of any search engine, still, I hope that will change soon.


Apple is a company that also cares about privacy and with it rolling their own mapping service I no longer need to use Google Maps. I can get directions and look-up addresses right from my iPhone or my Mac using the Maps application. If I need to find services around me, I rely on Yelp! I take the reviews with a grain of salt, but so far I’ve found that they are consistent with the level of service I received at the business. Also, it’s nice that is integrated with Apple Maps.


There are many freely available email services out there, so this one should be a no-brainer. Fastmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, etc. Since I have a couple of domains, I just use one of them for my email needs. Still the difficult part is not in having a different email provider, it is in updating all of the contacts, services, subscriptions and newsletters with the new address. Of all of Google’s services, this is the one that took the longer to complete. If only there was something like number-portability but for email addresses.


I’m using Piwik and I’m extremely satisfied. It has improved a lot over the years and the latest release is as fast as it is powerful. If you need a paid service, Mint seems to have a good balance between price and features. I’ve heard good things about them.


Before using Google Reader I was a subscriber of NewsGator which allowed me to read my RSS feeds on the web, and had applications for Windows, Mac and iOS. But after NewsGator discontinued their subscription service I was forced to move to Reader. Now I have setup my own owncloud service and, among other things, I use it to keep up with my RSS feeds via their News app. I can read and save my news from any web browser, and there is even an app for the iphone called CloudNews.

I also use Pulse and Zite on my iOS devices.


I don’t trust Google and that’s why I decided to take my business somewhere else. It was not easy to make the transition, but I believe that I’m 99% Google free now. I’m sure there are alternatives to the other services not explored here but I have not looked around.

If you want to read another experience and how to replace some other services like Picassa, Docs and Calendar, take a look at this article at IEEE Spectrum Magazine.

March 28, 2015