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December 2nd 2013 2:27 pm

Could you live without Google products?

After Google shutdown reader, and with their bigger push of Google+, I'm noticing blog posts popping up a bit more with people moving away from Google services. Aside from the companies history of just axing products, the issue appears to be users are becoming uncomfortable with Google's changes that affect products across the entire web -- not to mention the sweeping change to Gmail, IMAP, XMPP is leaving some people unhappy.

I was trying to think about how difficult it would be to make this move, especially as a long time Gmail user. I started thinking about services that could replace some of the popular tools that Google offer(ed).

Gmail: Fastmail seems to be the big winner here, but some are moving to Outlook

Search: Bing and DuckDuckGo are serviceable, but Google still wins out here when it comes to support related searches

Maps: Bing Maps really isn't that bad on the desktop, and given how bad the new Google Maps is it can be easier to use.

Reader: This was pretty easy since so many surfaced in the wake of it going down, but while Feedly may be the best it still relies on a Google account. FeedWrangler and FeedBin are pretty slick, and Digg isn't too bad either.

Docs: Office or Zoho

Drive: There are dozens out there, I think this is probably the easies to pull off

YouTube: Vimeo exists but gives a more professional vibe, I'm not sure of any other that is more "network" oriented. Perhaps dailymotion?

Calendar: No idea here on a web based solution

Voice: Again, I don't know of many solutions that offer a similar experience to Google Voice.

These were just some of the top products I could think of, but I'm sure there are dozens more that I may be overlooking. After all, Google has a massive (en.wikipedia.org­/wiki­/List­_of­_Google­_products) portfolio of tools.

What I started to realize from writing out this list is that some of these would be easier to pull off than others (Gmail, Drive, Docs) but migrating away from Search or Maps would be more problematic. New Google Maps issues aside it's still a very valuable service and tool, performing some functions better than competitors. Search and it's ability to properly crawl forums for results is also leaps and bounds better than other options.

If you've abandoned Google services, what has the experience been like? Are there any tips or services you found to make the experience easier?

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17 replies

Some services that I use daily that I wouldn't drop any time soon:
  • Google Talk/hangouts. I've pretty much migrated off of AIM to here since all my friends have Gmail accounts. It would be hard to move to another platform for 1:1 chat.
  • Search. I'm not sure if I'm just conditioned, but I feel like the results are better. Also, image search is pretty much the best out there.
  • Maps. Even with the redesign that I'm not too crazy about, it's still the best for getting directions, though I find myself using Foursquare to find places more and more.
  • Gmail. I could switch, but I've had my email for so long, it would be a pain to migrate to a new email service, so much so that I'd probably never do it.
  • YouTube. Can't fuck with this video behemoth.
Things I could drop or have already dropped:
  • Android. Switch from Android to iOS already and I'm happy. I could use either.
  • Chrome. Firefox is still good, especially the new nightly. I tend to use both, but I could switch to Firefox completely. I happily use Safari on the phone and tablet.
  • Calendar. I use Google Calendar right now, but I could easily use the calendar built into OS X and iOS.
  • Orkut. Friendster has a better UI.
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Didn't you use DDG for awhile?
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The long and short of it is that I could live without Google services... I just don't want to. Although all the privacy issues in the news lately, and the pervasive sense of being watched at every turn have at least made me start to look at what my options are, I really feel like I would rather just go back to the 90s if I lost Google. I see people mentioning Microsoft services, and that is fine, but if I bail on Google, it would be for privacy reasons and Microsoft sure isn't any better in that regard. They have been sharing your data with Big Brother since long before Google was a twinkle in Larry and Sergei's eyes.

To be honest, I had sort of been considering switching to using my @opera.com account right before they announced they were shutting it down. I could leave Gmail easily enough since I have email services lying dormant with my websites. The only major advantage Gmail has over using my own mail service at this point is the Spam filtering, but that advantage is dwindling since I have been spending a lot of time in the Spam folder recovering false positives lately.

Search, to be honest, is not as big a deal breaker for me. Yeah, Google results are better, but I can still find what I am looking for with other services, so DuckDuckGo is fine.

Hangouts are a little harder to replace since I hate Skype. Those are the only 2 ubiquitous chat / video services in my circles of people, so I am stuck having to use one or both unless I wanted to spend all my time in Facebook (hint: I don't).

Drive is nice, but nothing I can't live without since there are other ways, and Younited.com is pretty good so far in my testing. I trust F-Secure more than any American company anyway.

Google+ still hasn't clicked with me. I use it, but it feels like pulling teeth, so no love lost there.

I do think Maps with Navigation on Android is the best thing since cars, and giving this up would probably inspire me to just avoid trips into New Orleans unless a gun was pointed at my head or someone who knows their way around is telling me when to turn. Perhaps another service would work as well, but I have never bothered to try.

Google Voice... now that is the one that would kill me. I have often said that the day Google kills it, I am just cancelling all my voice lines and telling people to email me instead. Seriously, I generally hate phones anyway, and Google Voice is the only thing that has made them tolerable for me. Only one number to give... what a dream. Being able to place and answer calls on any device or computer near me... priceless. Number blacklisting and custom voicemail greetings... ahhhhhhh. I have not yet seen any service that really competes well with Voice. If they kill it, I will be desperately looking for something to do what it does. Although I would like to just go to having no number, I realize that isn't practical, so I would probably just sign up for RingCentral.com and do the best I can with that.

Chrome is my favorite browser, but I could easily switch to Opera. I use it as a second browser at work anyway.

Android is also difficult to replace for me. I really honestly hate iOS. I am a Director of IT at a small college, and I can't stand it when people bring me iOS devices to troubleshoot. The small screen and annoying keyboard drive me crazy, and I really hate not having a back button for navigation. I used the first iPhone for a year before giving up on its limitations and I am a recovering Macaholic, so this isn't just Android fanboyism speaking. I have my complaints about Android as well. It just happens to be the best designed OS for the way my brain works. It feels most like home. So, if I couldn't use Android, I guess I would have to look at Sailfish, Firefox OS, or Plasma Active for my portable devices. Sorry, I just can't bring myself to use Microsoft, even if I did end up liking the design (which I doubt I would based on what little I have played with it).

So, again, yes, I can live without Google products... but please don't make me... not yet.
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Oh you have to, starting right........now!

A quick note about Opera Mail, that was bought back and is now known as Fastmail.
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Oh, I didn't realize Opera mail accounts were just a domain on top of their service.
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From what I understand Opera bought Fastmail in 2010, but Fastmail has since bought themselves back as of September. If you go to https:­/­/mail.opera.com/ it says the service is shutting down in March 2014.
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As for me, none of these is really inreplacable, though I've been appended to these products for quite a long time. I don't worry whether Google will shutdown some of the services. The thing is that there's a huge market in these services, other tech companies are striving and will continue to strive to take out our data from Google and import the data to their sever. I will continue using products by Google without any panic.

The alternatives I might use:

Gmail. outlook supports activesync and imap, I can forward everything sending to my gmail to my outlook account.

Search. I'll use something like startpage.com which grabs google's query results.

Maps. I am a chinese, there's a peculiar thing happening in this land of mircles -- you can't get your exact position by gps using google maps, there's a location drift. Considering the china maps data provider for google is www.amap.com and AMAP provides offline maps, I usually use that on my phone, and keep google maps in case I want to see the gorgeous street view.

Earth. No alternatives for me.

Reader. tons of alternatives. inoreader, the older reader, newsblur, feedly, digg reader, aol reader, though none of these is comparable to google reader in some respects, I don't have to seek google's mercy. I am happy with that.

Buzz. tumblr

Calendar. outlook provides similar services and it supports activesync

Youtube. I don't want to quit from it, but I will use Vimeo and the like more.

Picasa Web Albums. Filckr

Google Translate. bing translator www.bing.com­/translator

Talk/hangout. I usually use things like imo.im which intergrates mainstream im services.

Yinyue (Music) (Google China) I used to stick to it so much and I was saddened by the news it will be shutdown. Up to now, no good alternatives for me to listen to legal yet free music.

Notebook. Evernote or springpad. When google released the new keep app, I felt like I'm too tired to love google any more. I just won't buy it any more.

Docs. in terms of functionality, office app in skydrive exceeds google docs too much.

Drive. Dropbox for sure. using mover.io or the like makes the migration painless.

Google Alerts. No alternatives yet.

Google Books. too powerful to abandon.

Google Apps
. Office 365

Blogger. painless export to wordpress

Google Voice. No good alternatives.
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I must be the most out-liner of out-liners when it comes to technology and changes.

I use and enjoy Windows 8.1 (and Windows 8 before the return of the Start button; which I think was a bad idea by Microsoft) while the tech press in general laugh and call it names.

I didn't know that the new Maps was even an issue. I gladly started using it as soon as I could and haven't had any issues with it. What are the issues that the Maps redesign has caused other than getting used to a new design? Have directions or locations been incorrect?

There are a lot of competitors to Google products and switching could be done with minimum hassle on most, if not all of Google's products.
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It's not so much the redesign, but the service is just really slow and uses a lot of resources now in the browser. It's also impossible to find "Satellite" mode which is far superior to "Earth" in my opinion. Aside from this the biggest hang up is that Google left things like "My Places" in place on the desktop but it redirects to old maps, and completely removed it from the mobile app -- not to mention navigating directions take more taps now to start.

Maps was just another sign of Google only doing this half-hearted and everyone just going "Oh it's Google, they'll fix it".
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It seems to me that the majority of those problems are caused by the new design. I have seen no difference in speed in using the new maps. I have never thought about the amount of resources it used so I can't compare.

Like I said, I must be the most out-liner of out-liners.
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Though I strongly agree with most of the above, I don't really with the last sentence. Yes, there are decent alternatives for many, but it's the comfort of having them all linked and all so amazing that makes it amazing. Also, having so much invested in the Google ecosystem could make it problematic getting all the required data out of there.
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I agree with you that having them all linked is what makes them amazing. Truth be told, I'm not sure what it would take for me to switch from Google services because of the value I get.

Google provides a relatively good way to get your data out with Takeout. I used that when they shut down Reader. I'm not sure what else you can get from Takeout but, it was easy enough for what I wanted at the time.
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Likewise, but what made that so easy was that every one of these new services, like Feedly, knew you were migrating from Google and specifically added support for Takeout. I'm not so sure many others would accept importing Takeout data for their equivalent services for stuff other than Reader really. :P
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Here's what Takeout can export:
Contacts and Circles
Google+ Profile
Google+ Stream
Picasa Web Albums
Voice YouTube

The big ones missing;

When I exported my Reader feeds with Takeout I didn't import the Takeout zip, I imported the OPML file in the zip to various RSS services. But, I concede that without standards then the data won't be of much use in a new service. I mean, how will Twitter or Facebook handle your +1s? or your Google+ Stream?

Kudos to Google to at least offer the ability to get your data. They could act like some smaller tech companies with a terse, "No".
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What a strange coincidence, Google just announced Takeout for both GMail and Calendar now, with GMail coming in a month or so.
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Although there are no serviceable substitutes for YouTube or Google Voice (as mentioned, Vimeo works, but is missing "something" - and Skype doesn't have the same level of service and mobile integration, number porting, etc... that Google Voice does), all of the others I have found myself back in Microsoft's corner.

SkyDrive works as a replacement for drive, and it can even host videos, and Office.Live.com (SkyDrive Documents) is improving to replace GoogleDocs. I am one who moved from Google Apps to Outlook with a custom domain (domains.lve.com), and the Outlook Calendar is an excellent substitute for the Google Calendar. It works just as well, and even includes web-based support for iCAL imports, etc... (although, Windows Phone does not support them at this time).

Although I didn't delete my entire Google account and walk away, for all intents and purposes I am living Google free, these days. Bing is my primary search, with DuckDuckGo coming in second, and Bing Maps is my go to, even for navigation on my phone. Waze was and still is a nice alternative, and still operates fairly independently from Google (similar to YouTube).

As far as Web Browser's go: disappointingly, as much as I love Opera, I spend less and less time using it because I keep expecting development to cease. I use IE because it came on the computer, but I have to admit it has its faults (for instance, I can't post this message using IE11, I have to use Chrome on GDGT/Engadget).

Tip: Since I did this many months ago (where was GMail Take-Out then?), to get all of my mail/contacts/calendar to sync, I used the full blown Office 2010 Outlook client. I added both my Google Apps account via imap and my new Outlook.com custom domain to a single "Profile" within Outlook. I then dragged and dropped from the GMail account to the Outlook account. Let everything sync overnight, and viola!
(even though both showed the same email address, only one was "live" in my domain's MXRecords, and since individually they sync through "m.google.com" or "autodiscover.outlook.com" this was possible. I first discussed doing this in an "All About Windows Phone" comment section months ago: disq.us­/8gk512).
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I use my phone as:
  • an alarm
  • a music player
  • a time-lapse maker
  • an internet tether
  • a communicator between friends
  • a time killer on buses
  • something that helps me go to sleep
  • a helper if I am lost
So, no, I would not be able to live easily without it.
On a related note
  • GMail - I could use Outlook, but the filter/rule system is so complicated to use relative to GMail's system - I have a really intricate system where all the people I am subscribed to on Youtube are filtered into their own categories (animations, vlogs, minecraft, etc)
  • Google search - I could use Bing search, but it would take some getting use to.
  • Google Maps - Could use Bing maps.
  • Drive - I don't really use this that often. I could use Skydrive or Dropbox.
  • Youtube - This is a really big one since there its the most popular video sharing site in the world. I wouldn't cope with something else like Vimeo
  • Chrome - Again, I have everything connected to Google linked, including the browser with all my bookmarks, add-ons, extensions, etc. I could use Firefox as it is visually similar. IE is a no go.
  • Hangouts - Skype is always an alternative
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