June 30, 2024 update:

As I resurrect this blog post from 2019, I find myself reflecting on how my perspective has evolved over the past five years. While my original motivation to distance myself from Google's ecosystem stemmed from privacy concerns, I now have a more nuanced view. I'm increasingly drawn to technologies that champion the open internet, like the AT Protocol and ActivityPub. These technologies have captured my interest as they promote a more decentralized and interoperable web. This aligns with my growing commitment to writing and publishing on the open web.

My stance on using big tech products has shifted. I've come to prioritize using the best tool for the job, even if that means returning to services like Google Search or Gmail. Perhaps the most significant shift in the tech landscape since I wrote this post has been the rise of AI language models. Tools like Claude and ChatGPT are rapidly changing how we interact with information, often supplanting traditional search engines—including Google—in many scenarios.

I wanted to share this new viewpoint. As you read my thoughts from 2019, consider how your own relationship with technology and data privacy has evolved.

Recently I've spent some time changing my habits and changing the online services that I use so that I am less dependent on Google to participate in the internet. I've written before that advertising as we know it is not actually advertising but surveillance. Since Google's business model is inextricably connected to modern advertising (A.K.A. surveillance marketing I felt it was time to start distancing myself from its products and services.

The first switch I made was to use DuckDuckGo instead of Google as a search engine.

Side note: recently duck.com was acquired by DuckDuckGo. I hope there is a plan for them to rebrand as simply "Duck" because if I recommend the search engine to someone who is not as embedded in the internet as I am (nerd), they often won't use the service based on the name alone.

Anyways – surprisingly, of all the changes I made, switching search engines was probably the easiest. Moving to use a different search engine is as simple as changing your habits to navigate to a different webpage. Truthfully, I have tried DuckDuckGo several times over the past few years and have always fallen back to my old habit of using Google after just a few weeks or months. Now, with my last attempt, it's been at least 6 months, and I can say I'm very happy for the most part. Occasionally, I use Google if I'm up against an obscure search term, but DuckDuckGo makes this pretty easy.

I'm not sure if DuckDuckGo has drastically improved over the last few years or if my repulsion to Google has been growing, but I can say I'm quite happy using DuckDuckGo as my primary search engine and that I have no major gripes with it.


Besides search, my largest attachment to Google I have is through email – and I have been using Gmail for a very long time. While Gmail has been reliable, the fact is that the business model is rooted in advertising and surveillance. It is well known that convenience is more attractive than privacy, but how far should companies be allowed to go? How is it considered ethical for Google to scan the contents of all private emails?

I have so many online subscriptions and services that all rely on email – and hence Gmail – for my online identity. In fact, email is such a strong component of online identity that if a person were to gain access to my email account, they would likely gain access to my entire online identity and to all of my online services. Because of this and my growing concerns about security and privacy, I chose to move away from Gmail as an email provider and use FastMail instead.

Making the move away from Gmail was difficult, but FastMail offered all of the features that I needed from Gmail: email (obviously) and a calendar service. I redirected all my mail from my old account to my new one and have been using my new email address since. My hope is that, in time, my old email address will be used less and less until I can phase it out completely.

Website Analytics

Another Google service that I use frequently is Google Analytics (GA). I had become so accustomed to using GA in my projects that it seemed almost crazy not to include it. How could I tell how well a feature or some content is performing if I don't have visibility into user behaviour? Well, it turns out that I don't actually use that many features of GA – and to be honest – I think it is a distraction most of the time.

Around the time of my switch, I came across Fathom, which promises to "Give your website visitors back their privacy." The product is very simple and it offers basically everything I need to maintain a minimal amount of visibility into the performance of my websites. I'm using Fathom now for all of my projects, and I feel good about it. The product is fast and easy to use.

When the core business of a company is advertising, everything the company does relates back to this mission. Even if a well-intentioned product owner inside the organization makes a move to protect user privacy, the product and the business will inevitably trend back toward its business model.

I'm now, for the most part, Google-free. I don't despise Google as a company, but I believe that its core business model is incompatible with privacy.