2014-01-13

Co.Labs

30 Ways To Leave Google Apps Behind

Have you and Google lost that loving feeling? Here's a swath of alternatives for each of its services.



Many of us rely on multiple Google services in order to conduct our everyday lives and run our businesses. Entrepreneur Joel Runyon thinks that’s a mistake, since ostensibly Google is turning evil. So he wrote The Complete Guide To Leaving Google to help you to at least diversify the range of online services you use.

“I believe it’s a bad idea for one company to have control over multiple choke points in my business,” writes Runyon. ”Especially when their service is offered for free, and I have no path of recourse with them."

We expanded on Runyon’s list to bring you 30 ways to leave Google. The company allows you to export all your data to help you on your way.

First, Free Your Identity

Belgian developer Laurent Eschenauer staged his own PRISM break last year, unplugging from all cloud services and creating his own cloud on a hosted server. One of the first things he advises doing is getting your own domain and email address.

“Start decoupling your identity from the underlying implementations today,” Eschenauer says. “This is the first step to free yourself from the corporate silos controlling your data and identity.” His own private email address previously forwarded to a Gmail address, but that made it easy to switch email implementations.

Email

Runyon recommends the privacy-focused, ad-free email service Hushmail, which is based in Canada. Hushmail is a web-based email service with built-in encryption that also works on iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry (via IMAP, POP, or mobile website). With the Hushmail business plan, you can use your own domain name.

Many commentators also recommend paid webmail service Fastmail, registered in Micronesia and based in Australia. Personal mail starts from $10 a year, and you can have your own domain from $40 up. ReadWriteWeb has a comprehensive guide to switching from Gmail to Fastmail.

ZohoMail is also worth a look. Zoho’s applications turn up in several categories below.

If you are hosting, Eschenauer switched back to IMAP and Mozilla Thunderbird, together with Enigmail for PGP.

Calendars

Runyon raves about Any.Do’s Cal. “This has actually taken over my entire scheduling setup,” he says. Other reviewers describe the interface as somewhat confusing.

Tempo is a calendar app from the makers of Siri, which scans your email (Gmail, Exchange, iCloud, Yahoo, or IMAP) and combines this information with your calendar to create contextual appointments.

Sunrise, brought to you from a couple of former Foursquare employees, does something similar, grabbing data like birthdays from Facebook and using them to populate your schedule. Tripit flights, Songkick concerts, Foursquare check-ins, and Eventbrite conferences are expected to be added soon.

Blogging

Runyon suggests a self-hosted installation of Wordpress. This fits in with advice from the editor of The Magazine, Glenn Fleishman, on why you should be your own platform and host your own content rather than relying on the goodwill and longevity of platforms created by others.

If you do want to check out a hosted alternative, journalism network Muckrack suggests an interesting quartet of new content-creation services. Marquee lets anyone create a beautifully-designed feature story. Ghost is a Kickstarter project to create a super-simple blogging service. The better-known Medium has been hosting high-quality writing in a pared-down interface for some time, while Jux maximizes the size and scope of content, giving YouTube videos, Instagram posts, and photos room to breathe.

Web-browsing

Runyon plumps for Firefox. Eschenauer suggests various privacy extensions, and of course you can change the default search engine from Google.

For Safari and Opera, check out Disconnect extension, which allows users to block more than 2,000 third-party sites that track browsing histories.

If privacy is your main concern, check out Tor browser for obfuscating web traffic. Tor bounces your communications requests around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world in order to conceal the sites you visit and your physical location.

Search

Runyon’s choice is privacy-conscious search engine DuckDuckGo, which received a major boost in the wake of the NSA revelations and served a billion searches in 2013. The search engine does not store any personal information such as IP addresses and enables encryption by default.

If you are addicted to Google’s search results, Startpage will query Google with your search terms and load the results through their own servers. Startpage strips a search query of all personal information, leaving Google with no clue about your identity.

Eschenauer recommends using ixquick as a search proxy for Google. Ixquick queries several search engines simultaneously and aggregates the results. It doesn't even log your IP address, but you can still personalize your search via an anonymous cookie.

Photo Sharing

According to Runyon, and pretty much everyone else, the Yahoo-owned Flickr is still the only game in town for serious photographers, but we also like 500px as a substitute.

Documents

Runyon recommends Evernote, which also comes up in Lifehacker's list. A new partnership with document editor OfficeSuite now lets Evernote users edit documents in their library with the OfficeSuite app. Zohodocs is another possibility. The free version has a 5 GB limit.

For file sharing, Joel lists Dropbox, Box, Mega, and iCloud. Wuala, based in Switzerland, specializes in secure cloud storage. Not even the company itself can access your files. You get 5 GB of storage in the free plan.

If you are self-hosting, Eschenauer uses the open-source Owncloud. “A great Dropbox replacement,” he says, “and it also provides us with shared calendar, contact list, etc.” OwnCloud provides universal access to your files via the web, your computer, or your mobile devices. You can easily view and sync contacts, calendars, and bookmarks, and it provides basic online editing.

Analytics

There are an increasing number of good analytics tools that give Google a run for its money. Runyon plimps for Clicky, a simple replacement for Google Analytics. PC World notes that “Clicky’s social-media tracking is weak . . . . WordPress users should take note that Clicky isn’t compatible with Jetpack,” but otherwise gives it a good review. It’s free for up to 3,000 daily pageviews on a single website

Laurent uses the open-source Piwik, which is self-hosted only but “provides me with more data than I had in Google. and it has a beautiful interface.”

Maps

Runyon abandons the field when confronted with the glorious Google Maps. Other commentators says that its worth giving Nokia Maps, aka HERE, a try. Bing Maps is recommended by Lifehacker.

Berlin-based startup Skobbler supplies an Android app called GPS Navigation & Maps, which adds navigation to Open Street Map for the bargain price of $0.99. You can use it offline and avoid those pesky roaming charges, which are especially onerous in Europe when a single train ride can involve passing through three different countries. See a full review of Skobbler’s app on GigaOM.

Google Voice And Hangouts

Ruyon doesn't cover this, but Skype, iMessage, and FaceTime are the obvious alternative. Lifehacker has an article on building your own Google Voice replacement from other services, and it all works outside the U.S.

[Image: Flickr user Chris Tse]