Divorcing Google, Part 2

July 11, 2022

A bit over a year ago, I wrote about my intention to move away from Google products.

Here’s where I was last year:

I rely on several Gmail accounts, use Google Maps constantly, own a phone designed by Google connected to Google’s telecom service, browse Youtube a lot, have a decade’s usage of Google Drive, coordinate with friends and family using Google Calendar, use Chrome as one of my daily web browsers, and since I’m a programmer I find it impossible to not use Google Search. It would be quite a challenge for me to never use a Google product or service again.

Here’s where I’ve gotten on all those categories so far.


Switching over to Fastmail was the first and most important thing I did. Being in control of my email accounts is an important part of operating my life, and because I was deeply concerned at the carelessness which Google has shown its users in the past, that came first.


I still use Google Maps a lot. I have thousands of pins in dozens of lists of locations around the world, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to take them with me without expending more effort than is worth expending. I think the quality of Google Maps has gone down over the last couple of years, and I don’t like the extra prominence of advertising nowadays. But it’s also a free service, so I’m not surprised that Google might be interested in making more money from it.

I do use other maps services sometimes. Gaia GPS is a good one for outdoor adventuring, though it is paid, and I’m likely to buy an iPhone as my next phone and might give Apple Maps a real run for its money. But I’m not going to give up Google Maps just yet. I don’t think I will until if and when I decide to no longer give Google my location data, which is definitely another level from what I’ve been doing so far.

Phone & Fi

Fi has been great while traveling internationally. I’ve been doing lots of that recently, and it has been great not thinking about SIM cards or roaming charges. I suppose other carriers have options for that. Maybe some of them are even reasonable. Looks like Verizon’s TravelPass isn’t, at $10/day. Fi has been great because it is extremely simple and I never have to think about it. So, yeah, I don’t feel super motivated to try to replace it right now.


I’ve started using browser tab containers to I can have properly isolated Youtube accounts. Now I have a dedicated anonymous account for listening to music and livestreams, so I can choose to keep the attempts by Youtube to distract me with content lower than I would be able to otherwise.


I’ve moved >90% of my stuff off Drive; it has mostly ended up in markdown files that I read and write with Obsidian. The few things that are left are a collection of quotes and poetry (using fonts is nice sometimes, and I haven’t wanted this to exist in a Word document yet) and a few complicated spreadsheets that I haven’t felt like porting over.


Yep, still pretty reliant on Google Calendar. I tried using Fastmail’s calendar but disliked that the notifications looked the same as a new mail alert; it was clogging up my signal to noise ratio so I stopped using it. There’s also social friction against switching which I haven’t felt the motivation to go against as of yet.


I’ve switched to Brave for whenever I need a Chromium browser, and for everything else I use Firefox. I could probably uninstall Chrome from my computers at this point.


I don’t use Google Seach anymore, at least not directly. I miss the days when every search result wasn’t clogged with hyper “relevant” low-quality webpages.

Luckily, there are other options. Actually there are a lot of them! Many of them are fun or interesting but I wouldn’t use them as my daily driver, like Marginalia, Wiby, or Alexandria. This is an excellent rundown of search engines with their own indices.

My daily driver search engine is Kagi. I’ve found it noticeably better than Google or Duckduckgo, and though I haven’t tested if it’s missing lots of relevant content, I do think my signal to noise ratio is better than it used to be. I signed up during the beta period and it was good enough that I’m now paying $10 / month now that it is paid. I think it’s worth it and I want to support developers doing this kind of work.

Concluding thoughts

I suppose I have to grudgingly give it to Google. Their products can still be quite useful beyond the inertia of just being used to using them and it being hard to switch (although there is that also). I would not take that for granted being true forever, though, if I were them. I wonder if they’ll become like the McDonald’s of the Internet: cheap, ubiquitous, and if you want quality then go somewhere else.

a blog by Rowan Copley about fantasy data systems, unhelpful simulations, echoes from the future, and the strange ways that the digital world manifests in the real