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De-Googling My Life – 2 Years On

I first started De-Googling my life back in September 2017. It’s now been nearly 2.5 years since I completed that process, so I thought it was time for an update.

I recently received an email from a reader asking me if I was intending to do an update on how de-Googling my life was going. I was intending to do an update, but I hadn’t realised it was well over 2 years since I went through the process.

It’s about time I gave you guys another update on how things are going, and what’s changed since the last update. I’ll go through each of the changes I made during my de-Google and I’ll give you guys an update on each one.

01 – Browser & Search

In the first post in the series I talked about replacing my browser and search. I replaced Chrome with Firefox and Google search with DuckDuckGo.

That’s still the case to this day. I’m still using both services and I’m happy to report that my experience has been great with each of them. Since the post was published, I’ve also started using Brave as a secondary browser. However, I prefer to use Firefox, as it’s one of the few browsers out there today that doesn’t use Google’s rendering engine, Blink.

In the browser space, diversity is key – I really don’t want Google to have the monopoly here, but unfortunately, MS Edge, Chrome, Chromium, Brave, Vivaldi and Opera all use the Blink rendering engine.

As I understand it, it’s only Firefox and Safari that don’t use it, which use Quantum and Webkit respectively. If you’re thinking about changing browsers, please consider Firefox so that Google don’t get even more of a monopoly in this space.

With regards to DuckDuckGo, there’s not much to say here. Their results are accurate, and their search is private, so I’m happy.

02 – Analytics

In the second post I explained how I was using Google Analytics for monitoring my web traffic. GA is all kinds of bad because of their online tracking capabilities, so I flipped to Piwik. Since then, I decided I wanted to reduce the amount of JavaScript my site runs where possible, so analytics was an obvious saving.

Ultimately I decided to go with Awstats, which provides anonymous analytics based off my web server logs. You can read more about this on my privacy page.

Awstats IP Addresses

I’m currently testing Koko Analytics too, it’s also privacy respecting and doesn’t need JavaScript. I’m not sure it adds more value than Awstats yet though, so I may not keep it. I do how like it’s embedded in my WordPress dashboard though.

03 – Google+

Next stage of de-Googling my life was replacing Google+. At the time, G+ was still alive and kicking, but it has since been killed off by Google. Like so many other services of theirs.

Anyway, I decided to replace G+ with Mastodon. I co-founded a FOSS-centric instance called Fosstodon, which has grown from strength to strength. We now have a really strong community of over 8,500 members.

About Fosstodon

I’m very happy with Mastodon – the community is large enough to be interesting and always has something going on, yet small enough to feel close-knit.

As far as I’m aware, Fosstodon is actually the largest FOSS/open source Mastodon instance on the Fediverse. If you you want to know more about Mastodon and how it works, this post may help.

04 – Google Drive

Step 4 was all about getting rid of Google Drive. I was using it to sync all my files and photos between my devices. I originally went with Nextcloud for file syncing, but after having a few issues with their service, I recently flipped back to a Synology.

I’m now using my Synology for file syncing, note taking, media streaming and backing up all my important data. Synology don’t make cheap devices, but they are brilliant. If you have the funds available, I’d highly recommend them. If not, there’s always Nextcloud.

05 – Gmail

Ok, the one that people really care about – replacing Gmail. To be fair, Gmail is a great service, but it’s a privacy black hole, so it had to go.

I originally went with a self-hosted solution on my cPanel server. This worked really well and I had no problems with it, but I ended up closing that server down and migrating all my web hosting to a different provider.

On the new provider, I have limited storage capacity, so I decided to host my email elsewhere. Originally I went with Fastmail, who offer an extremely good service, but they’re not cheap at $5/month per mailbox. With 6 mailboxes to buy, for both myself and family members, $30/month is more than I really wanted to spend on email, calendar and contact syncing.

I finally switched to Zoho Mail. They’re far cheaper at around $1/month per mailbox, they also provide a great service, and they respect your privacy too.

Zoho has never sold your information to someone else for advertising, or made money by showing you other people’s ads, and we never will. This has been our approach for almost 20 years, and we remain committed to it.

Zoho privacy policy

I’m extremely happy with the service Zoho provides. I’d highly recommend them if you’re looking for a Gmail replacement.

06 – What I Couldn’t Replace

This was the final post about de-Googling my life. Here I talked about what I couldn’t replace, which included Android, YouTube, Google Maps, my Chromebook, Android Pay and Google+.

This post is already long enough, so I’ll summarise each in the list below:

  • Android – I ended up ditching Android in favour of an iPhone. I now have an iPhone 8 and am still very happy with that decision.
  • YouTube – The fact of the matter is, there is no replacement for YouTube. Unfortunately I’m still a regular YouTube user.
  • Google Maps – I use Apple Maps for navigation, but if I need to lookup something on a map, I still default to Google. Mainly because Street View is so damned awesome.
  • My Chromebook – I’ve replaced this with a Lenovo X1 Carbon running Linux and I’m very happy with it.
  • Android Pay – I now use Apple Pay on my iPhone.
  • Google+ – This is dead now, as explained earlier. I now use Mastodon exclusively.

Conclusion

Two years on and I’m pretty much Google free at this point. There are some products that I just can’t replace, but you never know, in the future there may be products released that can rival these services.

De-Googling my life was pretty difficult at first, but now I have my new workflows established, I really don’t miss their services.

And as a final note, I’d like to thank Brandon for dropping me an email and reminding that I really needed to get this update done. Thanks, Brandon!

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