As of today, my life is Google-less. No Gmail, Drive, Calendar, Photos, or even Google searches (gasp!). I’m a little disappointed that the switch was so anticlimactic. Google works tirelessly to keep us in its walled garden, lulled into a hypnotic trance, unquestioningly loyal to the big G, convinced that Google has our best interests at heart, that no alternatives could hold a candle to the pioneer in cloud productivity.
Yet, I logged out of my Google account, and the world kept spinning. I still receive email, my calendar and files are available on all my devices, my photos are automatically backed up to the cloud and shared with my wife, and my searches get me where I want to be on the web, possibly even faster than before. Just without Google storing, analyzing, and exploiting for profit every detail of my existence.
If you’re as invested in the Google machine as I was, the notion of pulling the plug probably seems outrageous. Since I received an invite to Gmail in 2004 (or maybe 2005), I’ve been a Google fanboy, jumping at the opportunity to adopt every new service. I even went as far as checking the Google “products” page (more apps) daily to keep up with Google’s break-neck pace of product launches and try every new product on day one. Google seemed to embody its mantra of “do no evil”, and its free services appeared a genuinely altruistic attempt to better peoples’ lives by pushing the limits of technology.
Fast forward a decade or so, and the facade is gone, the jig is up. Google has become the corporate monster it set itself apart from to get where it is today. As a user, I’ve seen the ever-increasing control Google has over every aspect of our lives. Think about the massive amount of information you entrust to Google. Want to see something truly terrifying? Visit Google My Activity. Crazy, right? Now, what would you do if you were locked out of your Google account? Email, calendar, contacts, files, photos, notes, chat, even the apps you purchased on your phone (if you use Android)–gone. If you’re a business user, you’ll also lose access to Analytics, AdSense, AdWords, Webmaster Tools, Merchant Center, and My Business. If you’re hopelessly lost in the Google ecosystem, you’ll lose your social life on Google+.
As a business owner and one of the first to adopt Google Apps within my organization, I’ve seen the rapid decline in support, “upgrades” that break existing functionality with no warning, a Chrome extension that was banned from the store after 5 years with no reason and no recourse, and even hostility toward customers whose businesses are handicapped by bugs in Google’s software. Have an urgent support issue? Expect to wait at least a week for a support rep to respond with, “Are you still experiencing the issue?” Or you could always wait on hold for several hours to speak to a glorified customer service rep who can only recite the same help articles you already read.
As a website owner, I’m appalled by the complete control and ultimate authority Google has over the very existence of my business. Want customers? You better do SEO to Google’s exact specifications, unless of course you’re Pinterest, Amazon, or, heck, even Google itself. Even if you’re lucky enough to be in Google’s good graces and rank well organically for a few of your primary search terms, Google will inevitably release its own service that will push all those #1 results further down the page. Or, Google may just decide you’ve had your 15 minutes of fame and it’s time to pony up the dough if you want the party to continue.
Whatever the reason, as your organic traffic declines, you’ll be forced to turn to paid advertising. No worries. Google has the solution: AdWords. Leave your SEO worries behind and just pay Google more than anyone else is willing to pay for the privilege of ranking #1. When you search for something on Google, the top 3-4 results are ads that may or may not be what you’re looking for. Think about that. Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally searchable. Essentially, to get you where you want to be. If Google makes good on its mission, by definition, where you want to be is search result #1. However, Google has decided to forgo its mission if someone is willing to pay to be considered the “most relevant result.” Google cares about users, unless of course someone pays them not to.
But I digress. If organic and paid traffic isn’t working out for you, you’ll probably turn to email marketing. You may even think you’re escaping Google’s clutches because Google doesn’t offer an email marketing solution … until you realize most of your subscribers have a Gmail address.
No worries though. If you wake up one day and your organic rankings have tanked, you’re locked out of your Google AdWords account, and your emails are going to spam, you can just call Google to get everything squared away … oh, wait. No, Google has no interest in talking to you. There’s another you waiting in line behind you.
But Google Products are the Best!
Yeah, that’s what I thought, too. Until I pulled the plug and realized almost every Google product I was using is an inferior version of the alternative I found. Trust me. I drank the Google kool-aid. I actually thought I couldn’t live without Keep! Seriously. Just give OneNote a day. You’ll start to question what other apps you’ve been compromising on. Even the bloated Evernote is a giant improvement over Keep.
There are excellent alternatives to every Google app you’ve come to depend on, but that’s a topic for another day. Until then, take a look around. Revisit Firefox or Edge and retire your Chrome browser. Go for the jugular: visit DuckDuckGo (seriously, check it out) or even Bing and set a new default search engine. Take a few baby steps to get the ball rolling and, before you know it, you’ll be free of Google’s chains and wondering why you were so hooked on Google in the first place.
Bonus Tip: The Final Nail in Google’s Coffin
Once you escape Google’s clutches, cut off all tracking entirely by installing the uBlockOrigin browser extension (or, better yet, open your system hosts file) and add entries for all of Google’s domains. The end result is that your browser (or computer) won’t make any requests to Google sites, which means Google won’t even be able to track you on other websites that use tools like Google Analytics, AdSense, or Fonts. You may have to do a little digging to find all of Google’s domains and figure out how to modify your hosts file and/or write custom uBlockOrigin filters, but remember, DuckDuckGo has your back!