You may have heard of de-Googling before and, quite possibly, dismissed it as fearmongering or a conspiracy theory. But a surprising number of people are getting drawn into this process. For example, the r/DeGoogle subreddit has more than twenty thousand members.
In case you haven’t heard of it before, de-Googling means removing Google services from your life and replacing them with their analogs. And yes, it includes everything from Gmail to the search engine to Google Chrome.
Why is it so and do all these people have a point? Let’s find out.
What are the reasons for de-Googling?
The reason most of those thousands of netizens provide for abandoning the Google ship is privacy concerns. They also cite the old saying: if something is given to you for free, then you are the product.
And it’s not a secret that Google does indeed benefit from providing its services to such a large audience. The topmost way in which it does that is by collecting information about browsing and other habits of its users to target them with relevant ads later. The sheer amount of data it gathers is huge: it includes the sites you visit, the terms you search, and even what you buy online.
But for some (most, actually) people, this is either a fair trade for all the amazing services Google allows them to use or something they do not concern themselves with. Then why do degooglers take it to such extremes?
It is a hard question to answer. And perhaps, a better one to ask would be “Why are most of the population so unperturbed by how much Google knows about them?”
Is de-Googling even possible?
To somebody not from de-Googling communities, it may seem as if cutting oneself from Google and all its services amount to cutting oneself from the internet as a whole. How do these people send emails, go searches, watch videos (because, lest we forget, YouTube belongs to Google and also gathers data about what we watch and how)? These tasks may seem next to impossible to perform without Google.
However, to think so would be a mistake. There are many alternatives to Google services that supposedly respect netizens’ privacy more.
According to Cooltechzone.com, the privacy-oriented alternative for Google Search is DuckDuckGo (DDG), a largely open-source search engine. At first glance, it’s remarkably similar to Google as it allows searching for general results, images, news, videos, etc. Essentially, it’s based on promises of privacy.
Alas, it is not really the perfect solution: its users report that sometimes, though quite rarely, the search results are not as good as Google’s. In part, this is caused by DDG not gathering data about its users and not providing them with the results relevant to their location. That’s actually great because it helps avoid a “bubble” that can occur when using Google and only seeing what it thinks you’d be interested in.
However, sometimes DDG does return completely irrelevant results that aren’t even remotely related to what you’ve searched for, your location notwithstanding.
The reason is simple: Google, being a much larger corporation, crawls many more pages. But, to give credit where credit is due, DuckDuckGo is trying hard.
As for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox is hailed as its main alternative by privacy aficionados. Indeed, this browser does come with some handy security settings like separate “containers” for websites such as Facebook that let them run as if in their own browser and not see what you do in the other tabs.
But as it happens, Mozilla is partially funded by Google. For this pretty substantial funding, it offers Google as the default search engine in its browser – which, while easily fixable, does somewhat clash with its bold privacy claims.
What about YouTube? This one is likely the hardest. There are many functional email services and search engines and browsers that one can use instead of Google’s but with video hosting, it’s different. Hardly anyone has enough bandwidth to host a site similar to YouTube in magnitude because of how expensive it is.
Of course, there are websites like Vimeo but they are much smaller than The Big Y and operate on a different model. To use Vimeo as an example, it only gives you 500 Mb of storage space per week unless you buy a subscription, whereas, on YouTube, everyone’s got unlimited storage for free (if you don’t count the ads, that is).
The only way another website could rival YouTube is by attracting its largest creators. Moreover, it wouldn’t be enough for those creators to make an additional account on this alternative video hosting service but to completely abandon their YouTube one – because otherwise, their fanbases are still going to watch them on YouTube. The likelihood of it is questionable, to say the least.
So should you de-Google yourself? Well, that’s obviously up to you. But I can guarantee you that it can be a very fun challenge to live a certain amount of time without using Google services.