UnGoogled: A Week of Discovering Alternatives For Google’s Services

NoGoog   UnGoogled: A Week of Discovering Alternatives For Googles ServicesThe other day, when I came to know about Google Dashboard, I thought I’d check out just how much of my life is in Google’s servers. I was shocked with what I saw. I was practically living my life with Google. And the revelation set my brain in motion – that maybe… just maybe, I’d become a Googaholic. I started wondering whether I could survive being off Google’s services for an entire week. And thus started my week-long quest to look for free, functional alternatives to most things Google.

The first day started with me hunting for a decent replacement for Gmail. I knew the task wouldn’t be easy. Gmail, after all, does offer a whole load of awesome features. After tons of digging through a gazillion search engines, directories and forums; I finally decided to settle for Zoho Mail. It’s snappy, “offers ample storage for your emails”, POP access, threading, labelling (folders also an option), a good anti-spam system, and even Offline access. IMAP is also supported, but not out of the box.

IMAP support is a private beta, but you can easily get in by dropping a request on the support forums. The devs generally approve IMAP requests very quickly. I made the switch, and although I get hit by Gmail nostalgia every now and then, I’m pretty happy with Zoho Mail.

ScreenHunter 01 Dec. 30 13.14   UnGoogled: A Week of Discovering Alternatives For Googles Services

Day two dawned, and I wanted an alternative for Google Calendar (I tend to be quite the lazy dog on most days). I was actually surprised with the number of options that I had. However, I didn’t want a plain-vanilla, zero-fun calendar, and finally decided to settle for Mixin.

Mixin does a really good job of making event scheduling a more social activity. You can post to Mixin using your calendar application, SMS, email, IM, and wait for it”¦ Twitter! Once you’ve uploaded your agenda, you can head over to the Twitter-esque interface and compare your agenda with those of your friends and colleagues, collaborate agendas and make plans to rock your day!

ScreenHunter 03 Dec. 30 13.20   UnGoogled: A Week of Discovering Alternatives For Googles Services

By day three, I wanted to ditch my time-tested and oh-so-reliable Google Search. I shed a tear as I went looking for a fresh search experience. I didn’t want to stick with the giants (Bing, Yahoo!, etc.), and after much mouse-bashing and keyboard-whacking, I came across Kartoo. It’s a metasearch engine with a new take on how results should be displayed. There’s the traditional row list of results and you can also switch to a columnar view.

But it was the third view which provided me with great value. You can actually look at the results as a map of websites. The websites themselves are linked by additional keywords. These keywords can be clicked to broaden/narrow your search. I was surprised at how relevant the results were.

ScreenHunter 05 Dec. 30 13.22   UnGoogled: A Week of Discovering Alternatives For Googles Services

Google Wave has lately taken the world by storm. And it was exactly for this reason that I was itching to find a worthy alternative for Google Wave. I stumbled upon Scribblar. It basically aims to be a real-time whiteboard. It includes most of what Wave lets you do, and does it, IMHO, more efficiently than Wave. I almost used up an entire day loving Scribblar.

ScreenHunter 06 Dec. 30 13.28   UnGoogled: A Week of Discovering Alternatives For Googles Services

Being a blogger, I admonished myself for not having found a good news reader yet. Hence, I spent the fifth day looking for a good replacement for Google Reader. Amongst the web-based readers, nothing really matched up to Google Reader (apart from, maybe, Netvibes Wasabi). But I did come across a very powerful desktop reader. It’s a free, cross-platform client called BlogBridge. It requires the Java Runtime Environment to run and supports OPML import/export, tagging and pinning individual news items, apart from the usual set of reader features.

I also needed a good Docs and Spreadsheet alternative and came across EyeOS Public Server, which is actually an entire browser-based OS and contains a decent document and spreadsheet editor.

Screenshot eyeos   UnGoogled: A Week of Discovering Alternatives For Googles Services

For my location hunting needs, I fixed my crosshairs upon Map24, a service by Navteq. The whole interface was slightly too cluttered for my liking, but I totally liked the functionality it provided. At times I couldn’t pick between Google Maps and Map24. Points of Interests are called “Channels” and can be dynamically added to/removed from the maps. The only downside to Map24 is that it has a bit of a bias towards the detail in which UK, and Europe are covered.

ScreenHunter 10 Dec. 30 14.121   UnGoogled: A Week of Discovering Alternatives For Googles Services

To round up my search for alternatives, I wanted something with which to replace Google Image Search. I found a pretty neat service, PicFindr, which let me query close to ten websites for free stock images. However, I did get the feeling that the interface wasn’t very sleek and left a lot to be desired.

ScreenHunter 09 Dec. 30 13.43   UnGoogled: A Week of Discovering Alternatives For Googles Services

Then there was Free-Translator (to replace Google Translate), which did a pretty OK job of translating blocks of texts, as well as websites into the usual languages.

ScreenHunter 07 Dec. 30 13.34   UnGoogled: A Week of Discovering Alternatives For Googles Services

I also found a pretty cool replacement for Google Notebook (I’m an information-junkie and keep snipping things to share with the world). While Evernote works for me perfectly, I came across something that is absolutely brilliant in its simplicity. Justpaste.It encourages you to do exactly what the name suggests. Once you have pasted your info, it hands you a URL which lets you share your snippets with the world.

ScreenHunter 08 Dec. 30 13.38   UnGoogled: A Week of Discovering Alternatives For Googles Services

By the end of the seventh day, I had settled down into my new online routine. One, where getting my work done didn’t involve going to a Google subdomain. I could happily email, search, collaborate and organise, not really missing the Google life that I’d clung to for many, many years. Sure, the occasional twinge of nostalgia hit me pretty hard, but I’d moved on from being a Googaholic!

What are your favourite alternatives to Google’s services? Could YOU live without Google?

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

If you have any questions related to what's mentioned in the article or need help with any computer issue, ask it on MakeUseOf Answers—We and our community will be more than happy to help.

34 Comments -

0 votes

richard

After trying just the Navteq mapping I decided this is a very bad idea! Love Google or not there is no way the Navteq site came close to suggesting alternate routes or public transportation..

0 votes

Ethan

The thing that makes it for me is the UI. I just love Google’s UI, which is why I’ll stick with them.

0 votes

Alexandro

JustPaste.it has as simple UI as Google Notes…

0 votes

Colin Christianson

Now integrate them all so they seamlessly talk to each other and push to your phone and desktop. Adding an Android phone to your mix makes the loss in value a very unwise decision. Never has all my information been so consolidated and only a few clicks or taps away.

0 votes

Jake

It’s obviously possible to avoid Google in one’s day-to-day web life, but why? If you’re addicted to Google, you’ll be just as addicted to all the diverse services you replace it with. If you’re an alcoholic, you need to work on your addictive personality, and not blame the booze for being what it is.

Secondly, why live with the inconvenience of all these disparate services? With Google, I can receive an email and turn it into a document in Docs or an appointment in G-Cal. There are all kinds of advantages to the interconnectivity of Google’s applications, aside from the fact that they can all be accessed from a central place.

Bottom line: Sure, you can live without Google. But why would you want to?

0 votes

Roy F. Tottie

This is a great idea. Now I’ll be honest I have absolutely no intention of doing it myself. My life is currently complicated enough without me taking steps to complicate it even further. But it is by people developing, and people using competing services that we have any hope of keeping Google from becoming another Macrosoft.

0 votes

frenchuslawyer

Dudes! Dogpile is better than Google: do not be lemmings…Google only has got 11 % of the web,not as much as you did think,huh?

0 votes

Davood Dehnavifar

Could I live without google? Yes. Do I want to? No.

I prefer having to remember only one username and password for all of my Email, Calendar, RSS Feeds, Documents, etc. It just makes my life easier.

0 votes

Abhigyan

While I agree that the convenience of having one account to access everything under the sun is just something that you can’t give up, I would still like to advocate the fact that there is no harm in trying out alternatives. Nowhere on the Internet does it say that only Google has the best services and no one can come up with something more complete, or simpler.

Secondly, for those who are open to trying out new apps and services, but won’t so that they don’t have to keep track of multiple credentials, you can always make a switch to the Zoho suite.

Thirdly, in the extremely unrealistic situation that Google goes down someday, would you really want ALL your data to go down with it? Let’s face it, in real life, we never put all our eggs in one basket. Why then, should our outlook be any different about our virtual conquests?

I still use Google for all its awesomeness (and frankly, am quite the fanboy). It’s just that after looking at my Dashboard, something switched on that drove me towards looking for alternatives.

0 votes

Dipankar

don’t know about zohomail and the other stuff … but scribblar sure did make my day. loved the concept of documenting a life without google. how about a life without wikipedia? horror!!!

0 votes

Jeremy

Irony: Right above the first line of your “Ungoogled” article it says, “Ads by Google.”

0 votes

Abhigyan

Funny indeed. But Google Ads are a great source of revenue. So…

0 votes

Ashutosh Mishra

This is a good idea, but I’d be mad like crazy if I had to open so many accounts. This is very unproductive, to say the least, and all of Google’s services are on the upper side of quality meter. I’m happy w/ Google.
If one wants to stay clear of Google, he/ she can make a mass movement to the Windows Live services by Microsoft – all of them give Google’s services a run for its money.
Yahoo! also has dozens of services, but they keep shutting down stuff left and right. Moreover, Yahoo! services have a lot of gloss and bulk.

0 votes

nick

I would never give up Google. It’s them having everything that makes me happy. I looked at my dashboard and was glad to see it all in one easy to look at and organized place. You can no longer do that. You can’t just think “hmm, I need to check my calendar, where is that again? google.com/calendar? No…”

0 votes

Jackson Chung

Knowing a couple of alternatives is always good. Sometimes it’s even better to try them out to see if they fit you better than Google’s services. If they do — great! If they don’t — then you should be grateful for Google. Either way, it works out for you.

0 votes

Davey J

For email, I would have to disagree with you on Zoho Mail. GMX, I think, is way better an alternative to Gmail. Aside from its built-in calendar integration, GMX also allows you to have IMAP and POP access, both free of charge. Perhaps it’s best feature is that its “Mail Collector” system which, essentially, allows you to condense ALL OF YOUR EMAIL ADDRESSES into one location, right from your GMX inbox.

PS: Zoho Documents has one feature that I have yet to find with Google Docs: the ability to view online documents inside the browser without having to open up another program (i.e. Microsoft Word).

0 votes

pamelalibrarian

Regarding your comment Davey J “PS: Zoho Documents has one feature that I have yet to find with Google Docs: the ability to view online documents inside the browser without having to open up another program (i.e. Microsoft Word).”

What do you mean? When you open a Google Doc, it is inside the browser. It doesn’t open up WORD.

0 votes

Francois Bocquet

This list is a real good idea !

You can see information about new eyeOS version with video on http://blog.eyeos.org/en/2010/01/01/final-road-to-eyeos-2-0
I think it’s really better than the 1.x version for a controlled cloud computing service with real time collaboration tools, isn’t it ?
Possible to add mashup with Kartoo, Tokbox (for video conferencing) and Scribblar ;-)
Las but not least, you can install you own server because eyeOS is open source…
http://www.eyeos.org
Enjoy !

0 votes

CarMac

Not that you have to “Love” anyone of the search engines, but if one tends to use google instead of another search engine so what? The same could be said for anyone of the search engines also recommended. If you were tired out from using Mixin, Kartoo, scibblar or any of the others you could always use Google. Why is everyone always picking on someone? Someone is always knocking Microsoft, Apple, Google… bla bla bla bla… what is the freakin point? Did Google do you wrong some how? Did it point you in the wrong direction? Perhaps Microsoft and Google got together and pointed you to a Dead page? Perhaps Apple was in on it too? Bunch of freakin paranoid techies? Surfing way to much for Ripped programs perhaps. Use the one that suits you best… be it Google or Yahoo if you’re happy stay with it.

I’d stay away from ANY unknown search engine for the simple fact that it could be a decoy from some stupid dim wit that’s out to get your personal information.

0 votes

benny

i am totally supportive of the type of mindset the leads to articles like this. i just think it’s good to be aware of alternatives if the default way is removed. also like i said in a comment on the 5 alt search engines, it’s dangerous to blindly trust companies with such massive amounts of data. they’re saving it all, of course.

0 votes

retimer

As for me I prefer having different accounts even in Google (it’s not a problem to remember 20 emails & passwords). But I use very many alternative services, just cause I don’t like giants…

0 votes

Jeff C

Kartoo – which was introduced on this page – has disappeared. When I try to log on it say the server can’t be found. Any idea what’s happened?

0 votes

Abhigyan

At the time of writing this article, Kartoo had been up and running for close to 3 years. So, it may be an issue of server downtime. If, on the other hand, it is an issue of the website having shutdown (which I hope it isn’t), I’d say RIP to a very innovative service. May it have a grand funeral service.

0 votes

Terry

Found this article after searching for anyone who knows of good alternatives to Google Reader. I, too, have been wanting to find out more about what’s out there. It’s just a general, uneasy eggs-in-one-basket feeling I’ve noticed. (I think the privacy issues with Buzz started me—and others—thinking.) It’s very easy just to go with the flow and keep on using all these Google products as they come out, but are we always aware of our choices? I think that’s all, really. Are we aware what else is out there? Have we given them a go? Have we even looked?

http://www.fastmail.fm is worth a go, if you like.

0 votes

Abhigyan

That was actually the whole point of writing this piece. An alternative never hurt anyone!