An experiment to be Google-Free

Update on 5 Oct, 2012 : Still on Mac applications, but now using the free email mailbox option of my domain registrar + local Thunderbird email folders instead of Rackspace Email. Desktop apps are better for frequently used stuff. No matter how many times web apps lure me into “available everywhere” + “mobile syncing” feature. For example, the Brief addon for Firefox is so much more responsive and pleasant to use than Google Reader, although Google Reader’s advantage is that it works on mobile as well. I spend too much time with my mobile phone anyway, so it’s a good way to dis-incentivize me from using that screen.

Update on 13 Jan, 2012: Most of my online services has been replaced by good Mac applications + Dropbox. I have moved away from Zoho services because their UI tended to be quite buggy, and using the browser’s “live bookmarks” feature as the RSS reader. The main things I’m still dependent on Google for is Feedburner (because it is the standard for RSS reader count) and Google Analytics (again, the standard for analytics).

Update on 30 Jul, 2011: I have switched to another paid option now – Rackspace Email.

Update on 24 Apr, 2011: I was using Zoho Mail exclusively for a long time, but I got tired of my email landing in spam folders of Yahoo! Mail and Gmail users. Going back to Yahoo! Mail was not an option (IMAP support is only in an expensive paid option and I don’t like the Yahoo! Mail UI any more), so the Hobson’s choice was to get back to Gmail. Sigh.

100% Google Free!

A series of incidents and thoughts led me to try an experiment – to be “100% Google Free”. This turned out to be a lot harder than I thought, and ended up admiring Google a lot, and at the same time, worried and curious about what they do with all that data they have.

First things first, since I no longer use Google’s Feedburner, please kindly update your RSS readers to use instead of the earlier Feedburner link. For those 140+ people who are subscribed via email, I have migrated to MailChimp (emails were also being sent by Feedburner earlier), so emails will continue to be delivered to you from this post onwards. You can subscribe or unsubscribe for email delivery on this page.

Back to the main topic… there were a few reasons that led me to this experiment:

Phew. I think those were enough reasons to move away from Google, at least for a while.

And, boy, it has been tough. Let’s face it, it’s hard for companies to beat Google when Google makes slick products and gives it away for free.

Here is what my transition looks like:

  1. Search – The funny thing is I used Google Search only in 2004-2005, started using Yahoo! Search since 2006, and have moved to Bing exclusively since the past 6 months. (free)
  2. Analytics – Moved to Mint ($30) + Piwik (open source)
  3. Reader – Moved to Tiny Tiny RSS (open source)
  4. Feedburner – Moved to the default WordPress feed link + MailChimp for emails (freemium)
  5. Google Apps – Moved to Zoho for Business ($5 per month)
  6. Docs – Moved to Zoho Docs which turned out to be way more powerful (free)
  7. GTalk – Stopped using IM, it was a distraction anyway. (zero)
  8. Contacts – Exported from Google, stored only on iPhone (free)
  9. Calendar – Zoho Calendar (free)
  10. Google Groups – subscribe to RSS feeds of the group (free)
  11. Maps – Since the map application on iPhone uses Google Maps, no alternative
  12. Google Alerts – no alternative
  13. Google Adsense – This is still a todo item, haven’t looked into it yet. I have heard about Komli, Chitika, etc. but yet to investigate.
  14. Phone – My next phone is probably going to be an Android phone, looks like there is no alternative (I’m tired of having to use Windows just for iTunes, only because I have an iPhone)

As I’m sure you have deciphered, this took some installation of server-side software and some money to make this transition. These were the best alternatives that I came across that suited me.

So far I’ve been very happy about this experiment, because I got to discover and try out new tools and realized that there is so much more cool functionality available out there that I would have never discovered otherwise!

And at the same time, I admire Google even more now (from a startupper’s perspective) because they discovered a business model because of which they are able to give away so much functionality for free, and hence brought more people online.

Update: Thanks to Helen (in the comments below), got to know that Leo Babauta (Zen Habits) wrote about the exact same topic just 2 days ago. Good to know that I’m not alone in my concern!

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Jamie Larson