New Years Resolution: Google No More!
Well it’s that time of year, the time we all stop, take stock of our life and then pick a part of it we want to change. Okay well that’s how I do it anyway. Now like pretty much everyone on the planet I make the basic ones, such as weight lose. In fact this last year my resolution worked, with almost 60 pounds dropped. However, being as my life revolves around tech I figured I would look at a Tech related resolutions.
My resolution this year is to remove Google from my life. I have already achieved most of this and now my efforts are to maintain it. I have been amazed at how many people ask me why I would do this, I am amazed that more people do not do this. As we have discussed in detail on the show over the last year Google has as a company for years championed privacy while at the same time pretty much ignoring everything they claimed to stand for.
As of right now between cell phones, browsers, ad tracking, search tracking, email, social media and YouTube there is next to no one out there that Google has not collected data on. Think about it, Google Analytics tracks through their ad material peoples web browsing habits, that BTW is pretty much every website on the planet. Through the use of Google’s search, which accounts for over 60% of all online searching or in excess of 100 million searches a day, peoples search results are tracked and forced back at them as targeted ads and then sold to companies for various other uses. Gmail openly has admitted to indexing the contents of your email, in other words reading it, and then using that material to place ads on your pages as well, again the data is sold. The browser, Chrome is linked back into the tracking system as it Google based smart phones and tablets. Google Plus, their attempt at social media is nothing but a data mining front and YouTube is also mined for viewing habits. So with all this going on, last year IU began my quest to be Google free.
Now before I go into what I have done let me be clear people are going to point out that I traded Google for Microsoft, and I did. There is a convenience to having the various aspects of your life all tied together neatly, that is why Google was so easily able to invade our lives. To have this convenience we only have three real choices, Google, Microsoft or Apple. I really, believe it or not, gave Apple a lot of consideration when I looked at this but there is a much higher up front cost with the Apple solution.
The first step for me was to get rid of my Google phone. This is a big deal tot a lot of people, the concerns about the apps store drives that concern. I made the choice to get a Lumia 925 phone and find out how bad the app store issue really is. First let me say I love the Windows 8 OS on a phone. Compared to Google’s OS it is cleaner and faster, as well as just plain easier to use. The best part is it appears to be more stable. My Google based phone had to be rebooted at least once a week and often had to have the battery removed to do so, my Windows phone has never needed a reboot. The customization options are a mile past anything Google phones currently offer and I do not need to flip through a ton of screens to find an app I am looking for.
Speaking of apps, while the Windows app store has less options it is far from not being useful. For example I use an app that measures noise levels as well as one that measures Wi-Fi signal. Both of these where available on the Windows store, now on Google I could choose from between 20 of each app and on Windows I have like 5 of each app but that is okay because the app I need was easy enough to find. I know Doug had one or two apps that he could not find but they where specific to certain companies and for me I found work arounds that where fine. The truth is the only limitation to the Windows store is that you do not have 20+ of each specific app to choose from.
I can tell you after a few months of using a Windows phone I will never look back. The experience has been amazing and I cannot wait to see what the future holds.
Next up on the hit parade of killing Google is removing it from your internet. This one is a bit tougher as it involves so many aspects. Switching from ever using Chrome to just using IE was easy enough. For most people switching Bing seems to be a big sticking point and I honestly do not understand. The search results on Bing tend to be easier to understand and even of late seem to be better results. Plus Bing actually gives you something for using the service. I have earned almost $30 in Amazon gift cards by using Bing over this last year. (I have two computers and thus two accounts). My wife earns Starbuck gift cards on her account. I mean seriously good search results and getting free stuff, why would you NOT use Bing?
Next up is email and this one is tougher. If you are using a Google Phone then the Google account makes sense. Oh sure you can use a Google email on a Windows phone or a Hotmail account on a Google phone but the native support is always nicer. When I compared Gmail to Outlook.com (the new Hotmail) I have to tell you to me there was not contest. The Outlook interface was cleaner and more professional. The integration of the SkyDrive and full Office support for free was wonderful and if you need more online space the pricing is very reasonable. All of this was without taking the whole privacy issue into account.
Just these steps have reduced my Google footprint drastically. The one area I am still fighting with is YouTube. At this time there is no real alternative, though recent events might change that. I help with this I use a feature in IE called In Private Browsing. While this will not directly stop Google from mining my viewing information it will keep them from installing a tracking cookie for other sites to use, I also do not sign in so they do not have direct information.
The question I get asked once I explain all of this, what impact has this had on your internet usage? The answer is surprisingly little. I still access my favorite sites and still search the internet with no issues. My phone still works great and my Windows Tablet, while a little more expensive, integrates easily into my computer and even my phone for sharing data. I can still access all my Nook and Kindle books just fine and play videos with no issues. AT the end of the day the move required some thought and a little effort but was mostly transparent, has had no negative impact and I get the satisfaction of know Google knows a lot less about what I am doing in the world.
Now obviously there is more I need to do and I am working on it. If you have ideas or thoughts please be sure to use the comments section below to let me hear them.