Scott's Weblog The weblog of an IT pro specializing in cloud computing, virtualization, and networking, all with an open source view

Divorcing Google

The time has come; all good things must come to an end. So it is with my relationship with Google and the majority of their online services. As of right now, I’m in the midst of separating myself from the majority of Google’s services. I’ve mentioned this several times on Twitter, and a number of people asked me to write about the process. So, here are the details so far.

The first question that usually comes up is, “Why leave Google?” That’s a fair question. There is no one reason, but rather a number of different factors that contributed to my decision:

  • Google kills off services seemingly on a whim. What if a service I’m come to use quite heavily is no longer valuable to Google? That was the case with Google Reader, a service for which I still haven’t found a reasonable alternative. (Feedly is close.)

  • Google is closing off their ecosystem. Everything ties back to Google+, even if you don’t want anything to do with Google+. Communications with Google Talk to external XMPP-based services no longer works, which means you can’t use Google Talk to communicate with other users using XMPP (only other Google Talk users).

  • Support for XMPP clients will stop working in May 2014 (which, in turn, will cause a number of other things to stop working). One thing that will be affected is the ability to use an Obihai device to connect to Google Voice, which will no longer work after this change.

  • The quality and reliability of their free service tiers isn’t so great (in my experience), and their paid service tiers aren’t price competitive in my opinion.

  • Google’s non-standard IMAP implementation is horribly, awfully slow.

  • Finally, Google is now doing things they said they’d never do (like putting banner ads in search results). What’s next?

Based on these factors, I made the decision to switch to other services instead of using Google. Here are the services that I’ve settled on so far:

  • For search, I’m using a combination of DuckDuckGo (for general searching) and Bing Images (for image searches). Bing Image Search is actually quite nice; it allows you to search according to license (so that you can find images that you are legally allowed to re-use).

  • For e-mail, I’m using Fastmail. Their IMAP service rocks and is noticeably faster than anything I’ve ever seen from Google. The same goes for their web-based interface, which is also screaming fast (and quite pleasant to use). The spam protection isn’t quite as good as Google’s, but I’m still in the process of training my Bayes database. I anticipate that it will improve over time.

  • For IM, I’m using Hosted.IM and Fastmail, both of which are XMPP-based. I’ll use Hosted.IM for one domain where my username contains a dot character; this isn’t supported on Fastmail. All other domains will run on a Fastmail XMPP server.

  • For contact and calendar syncing, I’m using Fruux. Fruux supports CardDAV and CalDAV, both of which are also supported natively on OS X and iOS (among other systems). Support for CardDAV/CalDAV on Android is also available inexpensively.

That frees me up from GMail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, and Google Contacts. I’ve never liked or extensively used Google Drive (Dropbox is miles ahead of Google Drive, in my humble opinion) or Google Docs, so I don’t really have to worry about those.

There are a couple of services for which I haven’t yet found a suitable replacement; for example, I haven’t yet found a replacement for Google Voice. I’m looking at SIP providers for my home line, but haven’t made any firm decisions yet. I also haven’t found a replacement for FeedBurner yet.

Also, I won’t be able to completely stop using Google services; since I own an Android phone, I have to use Google Play Store and Google Wallet. Since I don’t have a replacement (yet) for Google Voice, I have a single Google account that I use for these services as well as for IM to Google Talk contacts (since I can’t use XMPP to communicate with them). Once Google Voice is replaced, I’ll be down to using only Google Play, Google Wallet, and Google Talk.

So, that’s where things stand. I’m open to questions, thoughts, or suggestions for other services I should investigate. Just speak up in the comments below. All courteous comments are welcome!

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