I have used many Google products in the past. Of course, nearly everyone uses the Google search engine. In the beginning that seemed harmless. But more recently we have seen how Google uses your search history to build a profile of you. Search for a product and soon you see ads on your favorite websites trying to sell you that item. (Although Google doesn’t seem to be able to figure out when you’ve purchased the item but continues to try to sell it to you.)
Many people’s first indication that Google might not be not-evil was after the launch of Gmail. Google announced that they would scan email messages to provided targeted ads. While no humans were allegedly reading your email, it still seemed wrong for a company to systematically scan the contents of your messages. But still, most people continued to use the service. I used it to send large files and to sign up up for a few online services. I have had email accounts with my personal domain since the 1990s which I use for most of my email communication.
In the last few years, Google has really started to adopt questionable practices. They manipulate search results. They help censor the Web in countries like China. Their YouTube service censors and demonetizes videos that go against its political leanings. Google has clearly abandoned free speech and unbiased access to information. For these reasons, I decided to stop using Google products wherever possible.
I used many Google products: Search, Chrome, Gmail, Docs, Drive, Maps, Play Music, YouTube, and YouTube TV. I own a Google Pixel XL mobile phone.
Although extremely popular, Google Search and the Chrome browser were the easiest Google products to replace. Both on my computer and my phone, I now use Firefox as my browser and DuckDuckGo as my search engine. I do not sync my bookmarks in Firefox. DuckDuckGo says they do not track you and I have not heard of the search engine manipulating search results.
I moved most of my email subscriptions from Gmail to an Outlook account. I removed all my photos from Google Photos and documents from Google Drive. I have moved my documents and some photos to Microsoft OneDrive. I still have to use Gmail and Drive for a few collaborative projects for my professional work on library committees, unfortunately.
I unsubscribed to all of my YouTube channels and cleared my history, “Watch later” and Favorites lists, and saved playlists. Because YouTube has such a dominant market-share, I’ll have to drop in occasionally to watch something important, but I won’t be signed in and will be harder to track.
I was a longtime subscriber to Google Play Music. I paid $9.99 per month to maintain my music library and to have the ability to listen to any song and album in the Google Play catalog. I also purchased several singles and albums. In December 2019 I cancelled my subscription. Around that time I had subscribed to SiriusXM for my car, so I use the online streaming service to listen to music on my computer and phone. I switched to Groove to play my local music files. I might try Spotify in the future.
I don’t own a TV and I don’t watch shows. But I enjoy watching some live sports, mostly English Premier League soccer and international cricket matches. Early last year I subscribed to YouTube TV soon after launch. I watched some soccer, cricket, a few World Series games, and a UCF football game or two. I gave my parents a family pass so they could use my account, but I never watched enough to justify the cost even before the decision to de-Google. After talking with them and being assured they would not miss many programs, I finally cancelled my subscription.
I’ll continue to use my Google phone for now. But I did remove and replace as many Google apps as possible. I haven’t (yet) gone as far as replacing the Android operating system, but I did replace the default Google Launcher with the Microsoft Launcher. This launcher actually gives more flexibility in how the homescreen is laid out and functions. It replaced the Google searchbar with one that searches Bing. It allowed me to replace the Gmail and Chrome icons in the bottom dock with OneDrive and Outlook.
Google won’t let you uninstall Calendar, Chrome, Drive, Gmail, Google Search, Maps, Play Movie, Play Music, or YouTube. Not good. But I did change my default apps to Firefox, Outlook, Bing, and DuckDuckGo.
The final Google app I replaced was Google Maps. After trying a few mapping apps, I chose HERE WeGo. The HERE WeGo maps are similar to Google Maps and they don’t seem to highlight the business that have paid to be featured. It provides directions for driving, biking, and walking, just like Google Maps. It also shows traffic. The WeGo navigation is better than Google Maps because in addition to turn-by-turn instructions, it also displays the speed limit and your current speed (although not shown below). I’m very pleased with the app.
Overall it wasn’t difficult to remove Google from my life. I will have to make a decision when the time comes to replace my mobile phone. I wish there was a viable alternative to Apple and Google, but the choice is limited. Until then, I’ll carry on—happy with my worthy alternatives to Google.