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Why I quit using Google

So I was recently asked why I prefer to use free and open source software over more conventional and popular proprietary software and services.

A few years ago I was an avid Google user. I was deeply embedded in the Google ecosystem and used their products everywhere. I used Gmail for email, Google Calendar and Contacts for PIM, YouTube for entertainment, Google Newsstand for news, Android for mobile, and Chrome as my web browser.

I would upload all of my family photos to Google Photos and all of my personal documents to Google Drive (which were all in Google Docs format). I used Google Domains to register my domain names for websites where I would keep track of my users using Google Analytics and monetize them using Google AdSense.

I used Google Hangouts (one of Google’s previous messaging plays) to communicate with friends and family and Google Wallet (with debit card) to buy things online and in-store.

My home is covered with Google Homes (1 in my office, 1 in my bedroom, 1 in the main living area) which I would use to play music on my Google Play Music subscription and podcasts from Google Podcasts.

I have easily invested thousands of dollars into my Google account to buy movies, TV shows, apps, and Google hardware devices. This was truly the Google life.

Then one day, I received an email from Google that changed everything.

“Your account has been suspended”

Just the thing you want to wake up to in the morning. An email from Google saying that your account has been suspended due to a perceived Terms of Use violation. No prior warning. No appeals process. No number to call. Trying to sign in to your Google account yields an error and all of your connected devices are signed out. All of your Google data, your photos, emails, contacts, calendars, purchased movies and TV shows. All gone.

I nearly had a heart attack, until I saw that the Google account that had been suspended was in fact not my main personal Google account, but a throwaway Gmail account that I created years prior for a project. I hadn’t touched the other account since creation and forgot it existed. Apparently my personal Gmail was listed as the recovery address for the throwaway account and that’s why I received the termination email.

Although I was able to breathe a sigh of relief this time, the email was wake up call. I was forced to critically reevaluate my dependence on a single company for all the tech products and services in my life.

I found myself to be a frog in a heating pot of water and I made the decision that I was going to jump out.

Leaving Google

Today there are plenty of lists on the internet providing alternatives to Google services such as this and this. Although the “DeGoogle” movement was still in its infancy when I was making the move.

The first Google service I decided to drop was Gmail, the heart of my online identity. I migrated to Fastmail with my own domain in case I needed to move again (hint: glad I did, now I self host my email). Fastmail also provided calendar and contacts solutions so that took care of leaving Google Calendar and Contacts.

Here are some other alternatives that I moved to:

Migrating away from Google was not a fast or easy process. It took years to get where I am now and there are still several Google services that I depend on: YouTube and Google Home.

Eventually, my Google Home’s will grow old and become unsupported at which point hopefully the Mycroft devices have matured and become available for purchase. YouTube may never be replaced (although I do hope for projects like PeerTube to succeed) but I find the compromise of using only one or two Google services to be acceptable.

At this point losing my Google account due to a mistake in their machine learning would largely be inconsequential and my focus has shifted to leaving Amazon which I use for most of my shopping and cloud services.

The reason that I moved to mostly FOSS applications is that it seems to be the only software ecosystem where everything works seamlessly together and I don’t have to cede control to any single company. Alternatively I could have simply split my service usage up evenly across Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple but I don’t feel that they would have worked as nicely together.

Overall I’m very happy with the open source ecosystem. I use Ubuntu with KDE on all of my computers and Android (no GApps) on my mobile phone. I’ve ordered the PinePhone “Brave Heart” and hope to one day be able to use it or one of its successors as a daily driver with Ubuntu Touch or Plasma Mobile.

I don’t want to give the impression that I exclusively use open source software either, I do use a number of proprietary apps including: Sublime Text, Typora, and Cloudron.

By Kyle Piira

I'm a computer science student at the University of Massachusetts and the founder of the Hoxly Corporation.

77 replies on “Why I quit using Google”

@kyle The prospect of something like sudden account termination scares the hell out of me, but I'm still very invested with Google. I remain only through some combination of fear, procrastination, and denial. A dangerous trifecta!

Kyle — what are you using to host Nextcloud? I have NextCloudPi on a Pi4 but would like to migrate to a Docker container on an x86 server but have struggled with the NextCloudPi x86 container. We want to implement Collabora but are waiting to do so after the migration.

Many thanks for the great write up.

I use Cloudron (also for my email) which takes care of backups, updates, etc. It has a one click install for Nextcloud, Collabora, and ONLYOFFICE. Unfortunately it doesn’t work on ARM so no Raspberry Pi (I’ve already complained to the developer about this) so I host it on Linode. It’s not FOSS nor cheap but I do find the convenience of it worth the money.

@kyle Great writeup, lots of good messages, info, and references.Did you ever find out what caused the account suspension? Was it perhaps hacked, leading to the TOS violation? Or perhaps terminated due to inactivity? Or ?

@kyle I used to use Google for your Domain for the whole family but realised that we were depending too much on the Google ecosystem.We are now using Zimbra, Nextcloud, Collabora Office, Matrix/Synapse. I am waiting for a Librem5 and a PinePhone.The very last step was shared calendars because it was harder to seamlessly integrate with all family members' mobile devices. With Z-Push (activesync) and DavX⁵ (caldav) I finally managed to move everyone to Zimbra calendars last week!

@kyle I’m still surprised that no one’s working on rooting the Echo Dot or Google Home. The current best method for the modern Echo Dot is soldering to sub-mm sized solder points to get r/w access to the eMMC.There are promising bugs in the bootup process that could allow takeover via USB, but I’m nowhere near skilled enough to try (yet).

@kyle I don't see many long-form articles cross my timeline but was happy to see this one that @caltlgin boosted. It was a very good read and well written. I always encourage others to take the same steps you have; Google provides *many* services that give real benefit to people and improve their quality of life but, as you said, for one, you're relying on a single entity for so much. Should a server go down or a data breach occur, millions of people slums be adversely affected. That alone should be reason enough not to use all of their services. Taking the privacy concerns into consideration, however, brings the issue to a whole new level, one that I think many people don't fully appreciate.

@kyle I don't see many long-form articles cross my timeline but was happy to see this one that @caltlgin boosted. It was a very good read and well written. I always encourage others to take the same steps you have; Google provides *many* services that give real benefit to people and improve their quality of life but, as you said, for one, you're relying on a single entity for so much. Should a server go down or a data breach occur, millions of people slums be adversely affected. That alone should be reason enough not to use all of their services. Taking the privacy concerns into consideration, however, brings the issue to a whole new level, one that I think many people don't fully appreciate.

@kyle Although I am not a big Google user, I recently moved house and changing address and email address on all my online accounts was a long process, especially as these days most use your email address as a username. There are still 2 accounts that I cannot change my user name on. It was further complicated by the fact that my house was newly built and the postcode was not recognised by most companies' databases, including Google's.I use FOSS as much as I can and avoid Amazon.

@kyleI really enjoyed it, nice to read!But I wonder why you quite all google services for other properitary user tracking services which also just could delete your account.Why did you switch away from Google Wallet or Music?And for YouTube, you can use https://invidio.us instead. Of course you still depend on YouTube but at least they dont track you anymore

@kyle @andreas this is really well written and argued, thanks, even gave me some new services to look at.One thing: ebooks – maybe look at a non-amazon device that uses the open ePub format over a closed “rent seeker” system. If you lose your amazon account, you lose the books.

@kyle Pumped for that pine phone too, as for google dependency I dunno most of it is pretty passable or a waste of time? youtubes only claim to fame is the community and I never saw google or its sign ins as having any real value

@kyle Very interesting post 👍 I remember there was a time when I used every Google service,too.At least the free ones.I even had a Chromebook some time ago 😕 I wasn't hit with a account termination notice but I simply felt that life is much better and easier with open source software.Some years ago I deleted my account myself and never regretted it 😃

@kyle I have had a very similar story. I actually felt like I was reading about my own journey. We have even made most of the same decisions on alternatives so far. I didn't have a scare though. I can't quite pinpoint what finally made things click, it was just a slow change of thinking. Very cool, thank you for posting!

@kyle I’d add that Google Reader was pretty readily replaced by ttrss (Tiny Tiny RSS). At least it has served sufficiently for my wife’s needs. I switched to rss2email when Reader died and like having the full power of my mail-client for purposes of reading RSS.

On the same journey since adopting Fastmail 20 years ago. It would need a separate article but countermeasures to suppress surveillance are also needed (using DNS filter, VPN, browser extensions etc.).

Ghost (https://ghost.org) is a nice alternative to WordPress. Also open source but less of a time suck.

@kyle Great article! I'd be curious to see your journey away from Amazon. Right now, I'm reliant on Amazon because my family is in the U.S. and I'm in the U.K., it's the only way I can send gifts without being charged/charging them customs (gov't thievery) nonsense.

@kyle , glad to see you made the move. I too started my degooglisation … need to figure out how to get rid of Amazon now … its going to be so painful though … its just too easy to use … and that is why its such a bgi problem moving away

I must say this was an interesting read however i am a little perplexed at why a dorment account would trigger a terms of service breach? Though it wasn’t the main focus it is the reason the whole thing turned south.

Nice write up. I use some of the alternatives as well and got some tips on more from you, thanks!

For people wanting a Google Keep alternative, check out Standard Notes https://standardnotes.org/

Web, android, iOS, Windows, Linux, free version (I ended up paying, it’s the best app of its type that I’ve seen).

Cloud: the FSFE (European branch of the FSF, Free Software Foundation) motto is, quite correctly, “There is no cloud, only other people computers”).
However, there is a secure “cloud” storage service in Europe, called Tresoreit, rather expensive. Think of it as a Dropbox done right and no CIA, NSA, DIA, FSB, Mossad, MI6 etc. inspection of your files, claiming to be GDPR (DuckDuckGo for it) compliant.

@kyle Right now, for me Google Docs still has a few advantages on its sleeves: the UI and UX is far more polished than LibreOffice, and real-time collabs are easy to use. Although it looks like Collabora is finally filling in that void!I'm currently using GPhotos as a free™ off-site backup solution, although I have classical backups available. My parents are aware enough of privacy stuff that they won't photograph sensitive documents with their phones.

Depends on how much Apple’s software relies on your Apple ID. Do you feel that you could continue using your computers sufficiently if Apple accidentally suspended your account?

@kyle This is a great article. Thanks a lot for putting it together. I'd be curious to hear you on your move from Plex to Jellyfin. How you managed that? How was the transition? Does it have feature parity? What are your thoughts on boh. Maybe a good subject for another article? 😉

Great article. Depending on a single company is not a good choice, expecially if you know that they collect your personal data in order to profile you and and serve ads (or maybe sell your data). The one thing that made the most impact in my life was to change the stock android on my phone with /e/ . This way I got rid of Google but I still can run the Android apps I like. It is not uploading data to Google and it totally open source and private. You can check e.foundation for it

I was deeply embedded in the Google ecosystem …
I would upload all of my family photos to Google Photos and all of my personal documents to Google Drive …
I used Google Hangouts …
My home is covered with Google Homes …
I have easily invested thousands of dollars into my Google …

Honest question: why should one take advice from someone showing such a systematic pattern of poor judgement?

Don’t do evil was the original Google motto. Some people would say that this monopolistic situation wasn’t planned. But there it is. And there is the danger. Thanks for the warning, and all the best.

im just starting the journey. i also ordered a pinephone and switched to firefox. one thing I miss is the google search info for local businesses. duck duck go doesnt have the store hours and stuff right there in the search page. its small things like that that I miss. the results are usually spot on though

@kyleHey, great post 🙂 I just need to correct you on one point: it's openstreetmap, without an s ;). And please contribute some data if you have a bit of time. Using streetcomplete (from f-droid) would already be very helpful :). It gives you very simple "quests" you can answer e.g. on your way home from work and that improve the data quality.I also use youtube, but never log in, and clean cookies everytime. I use skytube to keep track of channels I like instead.

You said you replaced google voice with Ting, but that seems like a phone service in the usual sense. Whereas Voice is a number attached to an account/app, not a phone/sim/esim. Ting can’t do that, can it?

Hi, very nice article, thanks !
May I suggest Yunohost ? yunohost.org
It’s a bit like Cloudron, allows you to manage your server very easily, including automated installation of hundreds of FOSS apps like Nextcloud and email self hosting !

@kyle great story! I’ve made very similar switches to you, including Cloudron, and have been very happy with it. I used to be die hard Google as well. Thankfully I didn’t have a scare like you. Just an impending dread when I thought about how dependent I was.

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