Leaving Google: Here's how I did it.

In January of 2017, I decided to quit Google. There was no specific need for me to do that, only the realization that giving one organization access to (and the right to delete or lock me out of) my whole life was not a smart idea. After the Google Doc Lock Out of 31 October 2017, my experience might be of interest to some.

I left Facebook in 2014, keeping only a string of empty profiles for communication with close friends and to keep the ability to manage pages. (Tip: Create several puppet profiles to manage your pages and write down their birthdates. That’s what Facebook asks for when they lock you out of your account.) I thought leaving Google would be as easy. It isn’t.

Email

Protonmail. Not as fast and smooth as Gmail, but still very good. I’m on the basic plan, which costs 50€ a year, and it suffices to my needs. Because it doesn’t read the content of your emails (it’s encrypted), Proton cannot do thread-management, search and spam prevention as well as Gmail, but knowing that you’re the only one reading your emails feels great.

Calendar

NextCloud. I looked for an open source calendar solution that had a decent web interface and support for CalDAV, a common calendar format used by mobile apps. Nextcloud works, but the online interface is buggy and the synchronization on mobile is useless (it synchronizes your whole calendar, 5 megabytes of data in my case, each time). But still better than letting Google know about my next hairdresser appointment.

DuckDuckGo. I made it my default search engine everywhere. Surprisingly, it’s great. The hashbangs make searching much easier, and even if DDG’s index and algorithms are not as advanced as Google’s, it works for most searches. When I visit Google nowadays, I have the same feeling as when I open a Windows computer: it feels bloated and made to ruin my day.

Maps

Maps.me gives you the OpenStreetMap data of specific regions for free. Largely as good, if not better, than Google Maps concerning the contents (what’s on the map). Search and directions don’t work well, so it’s probably not a great idea if you don’t love reading maps.

Mobile Browser

Firefox Mobile has the same flaws as its desktop cousin: slow and heavy consumer of memory. The one great advantage it has over Chrome is that it lets you install plugins, such as blockers of ads and trackers.

Mobile Apps

F-Droid is an open source equivalent of the Play Store but, honestly, I think I didn’t download more than two apps from it. It’s easier to search for the APK files (the files that let you install an app) of the apps you want to install.

Mobile OS

Nothing. It looks like all serious efforts to develop Firefox OS or Ubuntu Touch hit the ground in the last few years. I couldn’t find a manufacturer that sold phones that weren’t Android (I didn’t consider switching to Apple an option). I created a dummy Google account to manage my apps but couldn’t remove my previous account, because Google tells me it’ll delete all associated content (e.g. contacts) if I do so.

I’ve been told Fairphone developed an alternative OS. As a previous owner of such an “alternative” phone (the Geeksphone Revolucion), I wouldn’t advise going down this road.

Shared docs

Nothing. I switched to OpenOffice for my own documents, backed-up on a Nextcloud instance, but couldn’t find an open source alternative to Google Docs that was as good and which other people used, too.

I tried Collabora and OnlyOffice, two apps that run on Nextcloud. They are fine but do not offer the feature “send a link and display your document to anyone, with or without editing rights” which makes Google Docs so great.


I still use Google products every day and did not succeed in leaving Google entirely. What feels great though is that Google can now lock me out of any or all its services: I don’t care.

If you have tips or good open source alternatives to Google products, do tell me (hi@nkb.fr) and I’ll update this list.

Newsletter

In case you want to read my next essay in your e-mail inbox, type you email below and you'll be all set.


Comments

Want to raise an issue about this post? Please open a new one on Github or make a pull request directly, but make sure to read the rationale behind this blog first.