It's now been over two months since I began my journey to eradicate all traces of Google from my life. And one full month since I achieved that goal and began living fully Google-free. Actually, a few days over a month. I had one or two (short-lived) "Google relapses," so I added a few days to my "totally Google-less" time to compensate for that.
I'll be honest – part of me expected that, at the end of my self-imposed Google-moratorium, I would run back into Google's warm embrace. Up until two months ago my entire life (work and play) revolved around Google products and services. Gmail, Google Docs, Music, the Play Store, Android, ChromeOS... I'm not sure exactly how it happened, but somewhere along the way, I had put nearly 100% of my digital life in the hands of a single company. And I LIKED it. How could I possibly cut Google out of my life?
The challenge felt simultaneously astoundingly easy (how hard is it to simply NOT use something) and unbelievably hard (no Gmail or Android scared the dickens out of me).
And, yet, here I am. Challenge complete. I am now free, once again, to use whatever Google products and services I like.
But... truth be told, there are only a couple that I was excited to use. And a few I don't anticipate returning to any time soon (if ever).
Gmail, for example. I left Gmail and began using Kolab Now during this wacky little experiment. You know what? I have no intention on returning to Gmail. Even though Kolab Now is a paid service, I find it to be well worth the few dollars I pay per month. The simple fact that I am not being advertised to (and my data is not being indexed for marketing purposes) is well worth the price. But the fact that Kolab Now is such a great member of the Open Source community – in addition to providing an excellent service – has convinced me. I'm staying there and leaving Google-provided email behind for good.
Docs and Drive are a similar story. I left those in favor of an OwnCloud-based system. I love it. It hasn't been a perfect transition – I hit a few bugs in file syncing along the way – but the good outweighed the bad by a huge margin. I now have control over my own files and have far more flexibility.
And search, don't even get me started on search. I'm sticking with DuckDuckGo. I genuinely prefer using it over Google Search.
But there are three things that Google provides that I'm eager to embrace again: Google Plus, Android, Hangouts and YouTube.
I missed Google Plus. I really did. So much of the Linux and Open Source world uses G+ as their primary social network, not being there has made me feel acutely disconnected from that community. The first thing I did when my Google-Sabbatical ended? Hopped on G+ and expressed relief at being back.
I also missed Hangouts/Google Voice. It makes such a great telephony system. So much better than any other option I tried (and that includes moving to an actual cellphone... an experience which I absolutely hated and will be writing about once the psychological scars heal).
Oh, and YouTube. Not using YouTube was a trivial task. All I had to do was simply... not use it. But not using YouTube absolutely... sucks. Can't watch any of the (huge number) of great channels there. Can't click on hardly any video that gets posted to Twitter (or any other site). The YouTube-free experience, quite frankly, blew chunks. I found no viable alternative (emphasis on "viable") for the many things YouTube provides. So I'm back to using YouTube. Rather happily.
I've hated it. Hate. Capital "H."
Do I miss ChromeOS? No. Not really. It's an amazing system that, if you rely on Gmail and Google Docs, is astoundingly powerful. And, heck, it’s a real joy to use. But I didn't miss ChromeOS. I never once found myself thinking, "Gee... this would be a lot easier with ChromeOS."
Android is a different story. Nearly every single day I found myself in a situation where I thought, "Dammit, Bryan. Why'd you have to go and give up Android? All of this would be easy as pie if you would just turn on your stupid Android tablet."
That's not an exaggeration. Just about every single freaking day. You better believe that both of my Android-powered tablets are sitting right next to me, charging at this very moment.
So here I am. At the end of a (rather inconvenient) journey to remove my total and complete independence on a single company. When all is said and done, I'm still going to be using a few Google products.
Just no where near as many. I'll count that as a win.