For some time I have been concerned about what Google was learning about me and how quickly they are willing to turn said data over to governmental officials. Being an Android fan really gives Google an insider look into my personal life. With the release of Google Now I also went ahead and enabled search and location history.
Some time (months) ago I made a list of all of the google services that I used. Then I listed alternatives and the reasons that I prefer the google services. The plan at the time was to dump some services and attempt to cut google’s appetite for my personal information. At the time I dumped Google Plus and switched back to Firefox from Chrome…the rest seemed insurmountable. Reader, Gmail, Calendar, Contacts, Voice, Maps, News, Sites, Picasa…not to mention search and the Play Store all seemed best of class. Sure they are collecting all my personal data…but damn it is convenient. And the integration with Android seemed unbeatable.
Recently I redoubled my efforts; focusing on mail, calendar, and contacts. Much research led me to GMX, a European service. I transferred years of mail (using IMAP and Thunderbird), imported my contacts and calendar; but was unable to make it mesh with Android. GMX was too broken, contacts would not sync and the mobile login was broken. Back to the drawing board after several wasted hours.
I seriously gave hotmail a thought…but Microsoft has crippled its service to protect its Outlook brand (no IMAP, lack of Android support for Calendar, etc…).
Finally I settled on Zoho. It had a few things going for it that other services lacked: a complete package of mail, calendar, contacts, and more; it used active sync to mesh with Android (push mail!); the web interface is slick and ajaxy. Once again I fired up IMAP in Thunderbird and transferred my email, exported calendar and and contacts from Google. Zoho seemed to work flawlessly. I set up active sync on my phone and tablet, removed gmail, and now had contacts, calendar, and mail that synced with the web. And just like that, I am off of 3 google services.
Of course I can not just walk away from gmail. I’ve been using it for years, it is my login ID at numerous sites, and I have business cards with that address. So even though I have switched to Zoho, gmail will remain part of my life for some time to come. I set up a forwarder in gmail to send all mail to Zoho, so no more logging in to gmail.
Feeling like I was on a role, I forged ahead to see what other google services I could replace. I’ve been using Google Reader as an RSS reader for many years, still it was quite simple to switch to Feedly. Feedly has a nice Android app and a simple web interface, it pulled in my feeds quite easily.
Nokia recently released Here Maps for Android. There is minimal integration between the web version and the mobile version, but it has the major features that I need (except turn by turn navigation on Android). I went ahead and switched but retain the right to switch back should it prove inadequate at some point.
I put a fair effort into replacing Google News but have so far been unsuccessful. Nothing else comes close.
I dumped Google Now, no replacement required. It seems to be a solution in search of a problem.
So here is where I am at now: I had previously dumped Google Plus, replaced Drive with Dropbox, and replaced
Chrome with Firefox. In this round I replaced Gmail Calendar and Contacts with Zoho, partially replaced search with Duckduckgo, replaced Reader with Feedly, replaced Maps with Here, and dumped Now. I would still like to replace News and Picasa if I can find good alternatives; and I will continue to use Voice, Music, and Sites for the foreseeable future. Plus I deleted all the history (web and location) that Google was collecting.
Not a bad start.
None of this is meant to unfairly malign Google. They are certainly no worse than any other giant tech company and better than most. However, just as in politics, the lesser of two evils is still evil.
I am open to suggestions on a good replacement for Google News.