I decided to make this the year of leaving Google for everything personal. I had been thinking about dropping Google since 2016, but thought that it would be too much effort. Too much hassle. What about all those accounts that I use Gmail for?! As it turned out, it was just as easy as an easy thing to drop it all behind.
I switched from Gmail to FastMail to start with for my mail and calendars. Then, I transferred a few domains and — voilà — the end of an era. This was starting to feel good. Liberating, really. And, it only took me a few hours overall.
Switching from Gmail — and other Google products — I feel, was — and is — inevitable. Most of my personal work utilities have been solved using other platforms and/or tools. And most of the new tools available today are arguably superior to Google products. Currently, I use
- Notion or Dropbox paper instead of Google Docs for writing, notes, files and team collaborations
- GitHub for code especially since GitHub private repos are free now.
- Cloud9 for IDE
- DuckDuckGo and Brave for web browsing and editing
- Dropbox instead of Google Drive for file storage/sharing
- iwantmyname.com for domain registry
The list continues, but not by much. All-in-all, I oscillate between a handful of applications that keep me focused and engaged — with little cost financially (~$25/mo). And, I get full control of my own information. That’s worth the price to me. Not that I have anything to hide, I just like that I have the control and choice in my web.
Typically, I don’t mind sharing data for free services — most people don’t. But, I wanted to make this the year of simplifying my personal workflow; and avoid unnecessary tangents of attention that, as we all know, adds up. Empty spaces allow you to focus on yourself and others around you. More importantly, it preserves your mental immunity.
Back to the future
In earlier days, Google was great. I can recall using Gmail in the beginning somewhere around 2005 (still in undergrad school) when one needed an invite to join. The platform was so snappy and fun. I spent more time playing with it and observing its response and design rather than reading email. But, over time, Gmail started to get a little vexing. Google itself started to get vexing.
It was a few years back when I returned from a trip to Australia that I dumped a boat-load of photos into my Google Drive/Photos directory that drew the line for me. I later logged into my account and — behold! — there was this annoying little message stating that they made a GIF with a series of photos of mine and wanted to share it with me…?
I had a very peculiar feeling about it, and it was off-putting. It was then that I decided that I needed to leave Google and find my own path.
It’s not about the security though
I have talked to numerous people about FastMail, and most of them bring up the security topic. I have worked in programming with email before, and it’s complicated. Not an area I enjoy all that much. But one thing FastMail has written is that they don’t support PGP, which is the only popular method of end-to-end email encryption. Which makes sense to me: PGP is renowned for terrible usability and hacked-together workflows.
FastMail does, however, have other, excellent security standards. As Tom MacWright mentioned, “[FastMail] probably don’t take part in intelligence-gathering for nation-states, as Google did with PRISM. So, there are reasons to feel good and positive about the switch.”
Let’s be real
Most of my contacts are with family or clients that don’t tend to care that much about their security as much as they think they do. Typically, they will be using 6-alpha/numeric characters that closely resembles a birth date or part of a social security number. So, that typically leads into a 10 min security 101 extemporaneous course.
Your ticket out
If you’re thinking about getting away from Google, now’s a great time to try life without it. The alternatives are reliable and solid — if not superior — and switching isn’t too painful. The Google Dashboard is arguably one of their best-maintained products — and it’s your way out. Meaning, it lets you download and delete your personal data.