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Ask HN: Has anyone successfully been able to completely quit using Google?
66 points by tomglynch on March 12, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 57 comments
And if so, how?

No, because one is still forced to use some of their products by others: captcha, mailing gmail addresses, ads and tracking even in iOS apps, tracking on most websites (which can usually be blocked). Youtube is unfortunate, because many obscure things are only available on it, but it's not an essential service.

FIY if you're in the US they're also buying access to your CC purchase info.

Regarding YT, my solution is youtube-dl. Which is also a massive improvement on the service itself; cross-platform, choosing of format and resolution, keeping the media file and not being at the whim of an internet connection, work around tracking and intrusive / malicious advertising, etc.


On Android, I recommend NewPipe. Available from F-Droid repo.

Is it actually working for you ? I installed it and it cant play videos and crashes with an error.

yes sometime it has a bug and wont work for a while. just wait until an update. had this multiple occasions, still wont give up on it.

youtube-dl is also usable on Android. Available through Termux.

FreeTube is an easier app to "recommend" because it has a full GUI wrapped around YouTube, which lets you watch, search for, and browse videos just like using the website. You can subscribe, watch playlists, read comments... get in-app notifications on your subscriptions... all locally loaded in the app with no account. I also believe you can export all your data to move to another machine. It comes in many linux flavors, as well as mac & windows.


It's literally all the best parts of having an account on youtube, no account needed.

I recently started using youtube-dl and it is an incredible tool. Also, despite its name, it works on lots of sites.

Often however, one needs to search for the correct ID first.

I agree. A reporter tried to completely block Google services for a week, and it didn't go well for her: She was unable to log into some major sites because sapience detection failed (captcha). https://www.npr.org/2019/02/10/692877140/why-we-cant-break-u...

It's a work in progress for me.

Flashed my Android phone with Lineage OS without any Google Play Services — most apps work OK, though have some teething issues (some probably based on my config). Find any google things I still need I can use the web version for.

* some apps crash on start-up, even though you'd expect them not to be using Play services. Others (e.g. Monzo) work fine but I no longer get push notifications.

* some e.g. (Citymapper) work really well apart from the Maps integration, which is fair. Would love if devs could provide a fallback to link out to another maps providing app for directions but know it's not financially viable.

Maps.me wrapper around OpenStreetMaps is a really nice replacement for GMaps — like that I can correct things on it too. Only issue is that address lookup is slow & house number level info is a bit lacking. In London though, street level is good.

Moving cloud stuff is slower going — Have mail forwarding to Protonmail & will start to put an auto-reply on emails asking people to use new address directly. One thing I'll miss with GMail is the "send as" feature for other email accounts — use it a lot for things that are jointly between me & my wife. Also wish I'd have used a custom domain before switching so that I could swap vendors later more easily.

Need to pull photos & docs and create a backup somewhere. Not sure what vendor I should use for that.

Have you been able to get Waze to work without gapps?

Sorry, late getting back to this! I haven't tried Waze at all. I'm not driving, so was looking for something that'd work for walking directions so went with Maps.me instead.

Yes. As far as I can tell. Google lost me the day they shut down Reader. There are plenty of alternatives as long as you're not forced by your job or a particular client into using their services.

One thing I'd still like to achieve is to find a permanent solution for avoiding communication with people who use Gmail. Strong-arming them into a new e-mail service is a non-starter.

I'm surprised nobody has built a better email client by now. Gmail, as an enterprise solution, is quite expensive. I'd rather use any other service.

An email service bundled with a calendar or to do list functionality could potentially be a billion dollae company.

There's a lot of very good email providers out there, many of which would please the HN crowd requirements. Are you talking about a pure email _client_, ie where emails are stored elsewhere? Where's the business in that ?

The issue is not whether there is an alternative or not. The issue is convincing someone who uses Gmail to stop using it, and change to another service.

That's why I don't believe in switching services, an email provider should merely be used as an email provider and have all the desired features (privacy, encryption) built on top

The exercise is pointless, the equivalent to arguing about the most private pen for sending postcards.

More like two people having a conversation in the street, except one of them is screaming every word and you're just asking to please tone it down a bit, which is too much to ask for that person.

In that scenario, the quiet guy doesn’t realize that there is a cable guy standing behind him listening as well.

Mail is not that private, that is not the point being argued, and why I offered the street conversation example. From the moment you communicate with someone else, you've lost control over the information.

But there's a huge difference between that, and having every word you write plus all the info that can be inferred from that, recorded, stored forever, analyzed and re-analyzed, sold, exploited, misused, etc, by a hostile unscrupulous advertising company or its partners.

IMO, you’re probably better off with Google or to a lesser extent Microsoft, as their model is about selling ads based on your information, and hoarding your data for competitive advantage.

I assume that your cellular carrier and cable company are monetizing any bit of data they can capture and selling it for pennies to all sorts of parties.

There's a reasonable compromise to be found to live in a modern digital society. Otherwise, just move to a deserted tiny isolated island in the Pacific. One with a bit of higher ground. Climate change, et al.

Almost every email provider I can think of has calendar functionality and some have todo lists. It's not that uncommon. Other than that thought, you risk going in the territory of companies that try to do too much and fail at having anything decent.

Interesting point, that any emails you send that are received via a gmail app can be monitored.

This is also true of other services. While Facebook is famous for its shadow profiles, equally (if not more) concerning are DNA ancestry services - effectively, if any of your relatives submit to these tests, your DNA can be easily matched even if you have never used their services.

Yes, I've been without using Google Search for more than 2 years. I'm using DuckDuckGo, and honestly very satisfied with it (I particularly enjoy using `!` shortcuts, like !w or !d).

Also have stopped using: Maps, Docs, GMail, and other small services. Google domains and subdomains are blocked in my /etc/hosts file.

The one exception is YouTube. It's hard to replace that one, although I sometimes consume it through HookTube or even DuckDuckGo.

The other half-exception is Android, although I have rooted it, removed Google Play Services and Google apps, and also blocked Google domains in /etc/hosts. I don't know if that counts as "quitting Google", but I feel like it does.

And occasionally, it's impossible to avoid Recaptcha, so I have to sometimes unblock Recaptcha domains in /etc/hosts, pass their obnoxious test, then reblock it.

Honestly, it's much easier to quit Google services than it is to quit Facebook services. The latter has network effects and social pressure, while the former is just a well built free service monetized through surveillance capitalism. Note: I have also quit using any Facebook services.

I'm running LineageOS + MicroG on mobile, Firefox with DuckDuckGo as default search (both mobile and desktop). My Firefox on desktop has heavy tracking and JS blocking. Temporarily whitelisting every domain in NoScript is a bit annoying, but I can live with that.

But the Google services are just good, I often fall back to them if the alternative doesn't keep up:

- For some searches the result quality on DuckDuckGo isn't want I expect, but Google has exactly what I want on the first page (still I try DuckDuckGo first, it's good for most queries).

- Google Maps is difficult: I've tried using OSMAnd+, but more than once I ended up at the wrong place and had to use the mobile Google Maps website to find my destination. When plotting routes on desktop I still use it as default (after richjdsmith's comment I might try Here Maps).

On mobile I have the Google Play store installed to get e.g. WhatsApp, Spotify and a few other apps. I know there are other options, but those didn't work well for me.

And of course what blub said: Sometimes there is no other option, e.g. when forced to do a captcha.

For search, use the !s band on duck duck go. It redirects to start page which uses google search but without google tracking you. I often start with ddg, and the. Use start page if necessary.

you can.. It's an adjustment.

I have my own website, to which I run a mail server. It's a bit of work, but worth it, unless you aren't familiar with sysadmin or Linux, you can check out proton mail or several others out there. You won't get all the fun stuff, like Google adding things automatically to your calendar or trying to give replies for you to emails it might know better. You also miss out on ads from anything you've recently searched or said something in an email and strangely you get ads for similar products now.

Use davical for contacts and calendar.

my android phone, I only use Fdroid or yalp anonymous for apps. I do have a generic account on an older phone I develop on that if there is something I want to purchase I buy, then transfer the apk to my actual phone. You'll find pretty quickly which devs hate you as they enforce play services.

Checking all the things, you'll find can be done over browser, though more and more sites are pushing to force compliance & use their app.

You'll find that it can become (and has been intentionally I'm sure) pretty painful outside their apps, so might spend less time doing those things. Be prepared, you might get more productive or maybe You'll take up a bad habit like smoking

I switched away from Gmail to Protonmail. Docs I replaced with LibreOffice + git and Latex for Letters. That's so much more convenient because it works offline and I have far more import and export options. Where I can use Latex, I can use anything as a template and it's diffable. Oh and I use Perkeep as well, that's probably the actual replacement for Drive. Search I replaced with DDG. Also I'm using Apple CalendarServer which integrates with anything, so even when I switch phone OS, my appointments remain. I came to appreciate how great the support for iCal and ics files is.

With the exception of my underpowered Laptop - which I'm going to replace soon - I prefer to use Firefox.

The only thing left apart from that is my Phone where I have OxygenOS with the Play Store but as soon as LineageOS is supported, I'll switch over.

Admittedly the process took a long time but so did the switch to the Google Platform - or any other platform switch I did in the past like switching from Windows to Linux or from Linux to macOS.

I'm really happy that my new tools also integrate far better with many native tools.

I've been Google-free for about a year now. Already posted my "clean" setup in another thread[0]:

1. Replaced my Google G-Suite with Proton Mail and a self hosted Nextcloud The process was fairly easy: Just export all your mails and import them into Proton Mail. After that I've exported Google Drive data, contacts and calendar and imported everything into Nextcloud. This all took around two hours (including the Nextcloud setup).

The only "issue" was dealing with services where I use my G-Suite account as a login, but most of them allowed you to set a password so you can log in with email.

Nextcloud has amazing one click install apps that offer the same features that Google has (video calls, docs, notes etc.).

2. Removing Google from my Android phone For that I flashed LineageOS for microG. The great thing with this is, that you can install and use all apps you normally have but without having Google Services installed. As a PlayStore alternative you can use F-Droid and Yalp Store. Anyone who installed a custom ROM before will have it running in under an hour.

3. Securing my network with a PI-Hole and Proton VPN For devices like my phone, laptop and desktop I installed Proton VPN. As a browser for mobile and desktop I use Firefox with uBlock origin. For everything else (like "smart" devices etc.) I installed a Pi-Hole (basically Easy-List on network level) to remove ads and tracking scripts.

These were only the major steps that I've taken. So far I don't have any regrets about it and I haven't faced any limitations with the alternatives I use now.

Links: https://protonmail.com/ https://nextcloud.com/ https://lineage.microg.org/ https://protonvpn.com/

Additionally I've setup a self hosted searx[1] instance as a google search replacement.

[0]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17283889 [1]: https://searx.me/

I already made the switch to Firefox and DuckDuckGo. I still got to stop using Youtube and either root my android and get rid of all google apps or replace my Pixel 2 with (never thought it would come to this) an iphone, which as it stands I don't trust them much more with handling my data either.

There's also my gmail which will probably be the longest transition changing all my accounts emails.

I have done this.

1. Migrated all mail, contacts, calendar to Fastmail. Runbox is another good option. Email is custom domain. 2. For my cellphone, I use Blackberry Classic running BB10.3 (No Android or iOS) 3. Removed all services from Google login and deleted the acct. I never logged back in. 4. My Browsers are "Brave" and "Firefox". 5. Email client is via Blackberry Hub. For desktop, its through Brave browser. I don't need a standalone email client. 6. Search is DuckDuckGo. Been using them for three years now. 7. Youtube is done through mobile Blackberry browser and/or NewPipe on Blackberry mobile. 8. OpenStreetMaps and Blackberry Maps is used.

Its been a great experience so far. Less clutter on my mind with services and products.

Have rarely used google outside the search engine. Moved to DDG primarily several years ago.

Have a tablet to watch Netflix on, uses a dummy goog account with no info given, and most apps uninstalled. I've bought a Play card at the grocery a few times, not often. Try to avoid Youtube and use youtube-dl, but not entirely successful. The commercials have made it easier. Apple maps and downloadable maps.me offline. Perhaps ~90% g-free.

I do remember around 5-10 years ago there were a lot of folks that believed everyone was on gmail and incredulous if anyone mentioned they weren't. Found that odd as someone who's had a domain and multi-account email since the mid 90's, years before goog even existed.

Thankfully those comments have given way to this sort of post.

For YouTube, I use NewPipe[1]. It works well and include the ability to easily download audio and play in the background.

[1]: https://github.com/TeamNewPipe/NewPipe/releases

Yep, it turned out for me the slow transition was best. Over the course of a year anytime I register anything new, I just didn't use my gmail, and would just check both. Eventually I just wasn't checking gmail.

Google -> DuckDuckGo

Gmail -> Protonmail

Chrome -> Firefox

Google Maps -> Paper Maps

The hardest part I could see, would be for someone younger who didn't use search engines before they parsed plain phrases getting used to thinking in terms of keyword blocks, or learning to orient themselves in place by reading a map.

That said, it's fully possible. I found it to actually be more of a process of changing behavior, like say, quitting smoking, than simply substituting services.

It depends on what you mean by "completely quit"; in a practical sense, yes, but not in a comprehensive philosophical sense. I never used Gmail anyway, so it was just a matter of switching to Duckduckgo for search and Bing for maps. I use Android phones, but I never link them to any Google account credentials and I don't use the Google app store, and generally I disable all the Google apps since they constantly nag you to log in. I have Chrome on my Mac at home, but I only use it for checking Facebook; for all my real browsing I use Firefox.

https://switching.social has some recommendations for those wanting to leave google and other large tech companies that have become pervasive.

Apart from Google Maps I do not use any google anymore.

I have an Android phone (Mi A1) with Micro G running lineage OS and don't use gmail (I use protonmail with a custom domain). Instead of Google Search I use duckduckgo. Very rarely, at work, I will use Google for some niche search. By blocking cookies and using uBlock origin I try to limit my exposure to Google analytics.

I use Firefox on laptop, Brave on mobile. DDG for search. Outlook for email (and have started trying Protonmail).

Android is the biggest obstacle. The other option is iPhone which is too expensive (I personally don't see any point in buying a mobile which costs more than 250 USD). Too bad WIndows OS and Blackberry died. Google map is also hard to give up.

Try flashing LineageOS on your phone. That should solve the Android issue. You can also choose not to use Google Apps after doing so.

Nope. Tried everything to replace maps on Android, countless times and nothing comes close when I'm trying to find a place.

Same goes for dialer, contacts and calendar android apps. Every other app was either buggy or didn't see the davdroid syncs.

Everything else, I could. Radicale for cal/carddav, self hosted email, k9 mail app, etc.

Here is a list of alternatives to all Google products: https://restoreprivacy.com/google-alternatives/

I tried and I'm basically Google-free except for...


I tried DDG and co very hard but Google search really is that much better

( well I also use Google Drive for Business but I can switch and all my data is encrypted )

You should try Searx which is able to proxy Google Search.

You can use DDG with !s or just Startpage directly.

Nope, Google Maps is sticky. I've tried alternatives and just haven't had any luck. OsmAnd (Open Street Maps on Android) is good for plenty, but not driving.

The closest I've found is Here Maps. The navigation and driving instructions work fine (at least in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Germany), but the POI search sucks. In Google Maps I simply enter the name of the place I want to go and hit directions. With Here Maps I more often than not first have to use Google to find the address of the place I'm going and then enter that.

There are a surprising number of apps that use Firebase which is a Google product. Very few of those apps disclose Firbase in their ad listings.


For search needs you can try www.startpage.com ..just found it recently and the search is fantastic.

“StartPage uses results from Google”


No, but there's a lot to be said for knocking down the easy 90-95% of it...

I use duckduckgo and protonmail. Works fine for me.

You can always move to China

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