I don’t like the idea of Google world domination and I don’t want to identify myself to Google too much for several reasons. But are there any good alternatives to Google services and applications? The answer is (for the most part) yes to this question. I’m trying to move away from Google and it doesn’t hurt that much to be honest. Let me share some interesting alternatives with you that cares about your privacy.
Before we start I have to say: This is my findings in my own search for good Google services and applications alternatives. The list may not be perfect and I can’t guarantee bullet proof privacy (obviously) using the listed alternatives. I may also be wrong on some statements, so please leave a comment if that’s so.
Google search engine alternative(s)
First, the most natural thing to figure out, an alternative search engine. Actually, this one is pretty simple. You have three valid alternatives here in my opinion. These are DuckDuckGo, Startpage.com and Ixquick. I prefer DuckDuckGo for decent search results, some nice settings and a dark theme that’s easy on the eyes. If you aren’t happy with the DuckDuckGo search results, give Startpage.com a try instead! Ixquick is also a good alternative.
Google Chrome alternative(s)
Now over to a Gmail alternative. The problem in this matter is that if you don’t pay for an email service, you might not get the proper privacy and ad-free alternative you want. Big email service providers often have their own data centers, and running them costs a lot of money. Donations isn’t always sufficient, so how can they make money? By selling you / your data, showing you advertisement, and tracking you. Information about you, your habits and interests are big business these days, you know. The new oil and all that. Big data, data mining, business intelligence, you name it.
Some valid alternatives to Gmail (and other PRISM friends) are Kolab Now and Runbox. Kolab Now had a design and feature overhaul not too long ago and is very appealing as an email and groupware solution. Their servers are located in Switzerland and provides good privacy terms. Runbox is located in Norway which also gives you quite good privacy, as far as I know. Both Runbox and Kolab Now runs on renewable energy in their data centers. I have to add though, both these options cost money. They are not free and there is a reason for that. They treat your privacy and data differently than Google, Microsoft, etc.
Google Drive alternative(s)
For file hosting / cloud storage there are also some good alternatives out there. Kolab Now is one solution you might want to have a look at. It’s probably not quite what you want perhaps, but it’s a nice groupware solution with email, cloud storage and more. If you really care about your own data, setting up your own file hosting server using ownCloud can be a good idea. It can be a fun project and you will learn new things if you are new to it all. You can use hardware you already own or buy a server that’s energy efficient and that doesn’t make too much noise for using in your own home. That way you can have it run pretty much painlessly. If this sounds like too much work and/or you don’t feel comfortable with it, you can look for privacy caring cloud storage providers, if you dare to trust them. Or you can do it the old school way, keeping your data in your own home on hard drives or other storage media. It’s safer to keep it offline, you know.
For your social media needs you have two alternatives that I recommend. One is Diaspora*, a social network where decentralization and privacy is important. It may not have an insane userbase like Facebook and Google+, but it’s actually a pretty good network of people. The other alternative is all about microblogging, and it’s called Quitter, an Twitter alternative. This one is also decentralized, like Diaspora*. I have written an article about it here, so have a look!
Twitter is also an alternative (if you consider a microblogging platform a real alternative), but I’m not sure how much better it is compared to Google+ when thinking of their terms of service and privacy.
YouTube, ouch, this is a bit worse. You want to find videos related to your interests? You want to see all the viral videos your friends linked you? Well, YouTube is your best bet, but not the best bet for terms of service. Let’s be honest, a lot of people upload videos to YouTube and you often have to look there if you really are looking for a certain video. But a life without YouTube isn’t impossible, by all means. You won’t die by not using it, but it’s convenient to use it.
MediaGoblin may be a future alternative as it matures over time. It’s all about decentralized media sharing, hosting your own data. That might be the ideal future, both for privacy and security, by spreading the system load and personal data from different users over multiple nodes making data harder to monitor and giving the control and freedom back to the users.
Google Analytics alternative(s)
Piwik is said to be a solid alternative to Google Analytics. It’s an open-source analytics platform that has been downloaded more than 2.7 million times at the time being. This is not my expert field, so I can’t say too much about this.
So, you want to chat with your friends? And you are using Google Hangouts? This one is not that hard. You can just use a XMPP account with Pidgin and the OTR-plugin (for encryption) and that way have increased privacy and security. You also have GNU Social and Quitter for microblogging communication, Mumble for voice communication, Firefox Hello for chatting, website sharing, video and voice, and Jitsi for various things, like video conversations and web conferences for example.
Google Translate alternative(s)
This one is a bit tricky to replace. You can go old school using a dictionary, but if you really want all the functionality from Google Translate, there might not be a good alternative to it, to this date. So far I haven’t found something as good as Google Translate.
Google Maps alternative(s)
OpenStreetMap is my favorite alternative for Google Maps. Quoted from their website: “OpenStreetMap is a map of the world, created by people like you and free to use under an open license.” This is a really important project, so if you can help out with it, that would be a good deed.
You also have Google Earth, but I kind of categorize it as a map application, so I would still recommend OpenStreetMap.
No, not iOS, hehe. I use CyanogeMod and have been happy with that for a while now. I do not have the core Google apps installed. No Google Play, no Gmail, no Google Maps, no Google Translate, and so on. Instead I use F-Droid to install and update my apps. That’s a place where I have found many quality apps that’s free software. If I do need an app from Google Play I download it from somewhere else, without touching Google Play. For that you can use APKPure.com, for example, even though I can’t say how safe it is. If you want to go a step further down the free software road, have a look at Replicant. This operating system can lack support for some of your functionality on your smartphone, for example your camera, so read up on all that before considering putting it on your phone (if it even exists for your phone model). To read more about liberating your smartphone, check out this FSFE article on the topic.
To sum it up…
As you have seen there are good alternatives to some of the services and applications from Google. You might suffer quite a bit if you are a Google addict and quit using all the Google products, but most people should be able to live just fine without using Google that much. Change your habits and it might actually be fun and feel like an inspiring adventure and project. At least give it a try if you care about your data and privacy. If you cut down on your use of Google services you do at least give them less data to screw around with compared with before. That should be a valid point.
I have managed to steer away from Google these days, more or less. I have signed up to Kolab Now which helps me get away from Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Drive. I try to use DuckDuckGo and Startpage.com instead of Google.com, and OpenStreetMap instead of Google Maps. The real “problems” seems to be alternatives to YouTube and Google Translate, but things may change in the future, hopefully.
If you are having problems finding alternatives to certain services or applications, have a look at AlternativeTo which is a “crowdsourced software recommendations”-website. It can be really helpful, and you can categorize applications based on platform and type of license.
Good luck on your journey away from Google! 🙂