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How to live without Google (2017) (spreadprivacy.com)
119 points by deathwarmedover 34 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 116 comments

Swapping out a select few of Google's products isn't the same as "living without Google". Until you've blacklisted their entire netblock range from your usage[1], you don't realize just how many tendrils they have in every aspect of your Internet experience. And good luck getting around the other tech giants' oligopoly of the web as well[2]. The Internet isn't a fun "wild-west frontier" anymore, it's now completely commercialized into a handful of super large silos, with mostly no way around them.

[1] https://gizmodo.com/i-cut-google-out-of-my-life-it-screwed-u...

[2] https://gizmodo.com/life-without-the-tech-giants-1830258056

Reminds me of this xkcd: https://xkcd.com/2105/

Google created TCP Vegas, Chrome, and extend OAuth 2; so they're likely in the transport, presentation, and session layers too.

Should we be worried?

For a couple of month I have set duckduckgo as my standard search engine, but I often do not get satisfactory results. Is this because I am used to the Google results or does duckduckgo indeed not prioritize in a good way?

I switched to DDG about two years ago.

A bunch of results (20%? 30%?) are not very good, and it's not an exception. Also I know it's suppose to come down the line, but not having a filter for results of the past year is a PITA.

In my case though, Google is not very good either, I remember getting very random results (mostly focused on popular or local trends, when I'm looking for something specific) about half of the time.

In fine, I see DDG as an alternative giving access to both Google and DDG. Switching to DDG when Google was bad was not simple, the reverse is (just add a !)

Same here tried using DDG, sometimes I get nothing relevant and find myself going to back to Google, I even tired forcing myself to use bing but still the results are not just good enough.

It'd be interesting for the peanut gallery if you went into a bit of detail about what 'satisfactory' and 'unsatisfactory' means to you.

I'm sitting here feeling confused because there is no detectable difference between DDG and Google for me. Search patterns must be very particular to the person and obviously I'm not searching for the right stuff :P.

A very concrete example: I am trying to find a solution for a certain error / warning in AndroidStudio. I try finding it using DDG, not succeeding, while on Google I'd find the solution within the 3 first results. Happened to me already several times. So it is satisfactory to me if the search leads to a solution or at least the right path to finding a solution to my query.

Tbh ddg results are next to useless except the most common of issues. g! Is the only thing that makes it usable.

I have the same experience. I set DDG as my default search engine on all of my devices, and with maybe 10% of my searches I revert to Google. DDG is adequate for common stuff, but for anything obscure, it doesn't really cut it. These days, I have a pretty good feeling for whether DDG will give me what I want before I search.

If you want to move away from Google 100% and expect DDG to fill the gap, it will be a disappointing experience.

What I have been doing successfully for three-ish years now is to use DDG as my default, which handles about 50% of my searches, while the other 50% are !bangs to sites I know I want to end up on.

A lot of the time that allows me to circumvent Google for a few extra searches, and sometimes it's just !g to show Google results, mostly when it's searches I want localized, or the topic is just too specific. For the latter I am trying to use !s more often.

Much like knowing what terms to look up, knowing when DDG results are good enough and when to use !g, !s or when to jump straight to the website you want to go to, is something that gets easier and starts to feel natural eventually.

I'm not 100% de-google-fied, but I'm 95% there in regards to searches, with none of the discomforts people keep bringing up.

I default to DuckDuckGo as my search engine though I use !g for anything it doesn't get right. I was on call with a colleague and we were problem solving and I needed to look up something and I typed it in the search box and a bunch of porn results came up. She just laughed but I knew it was a close shave. DuckDuckGo's image search can come up with porn for rather innocuous terms, e.g., https://duckduckgo.com/?q=search+reddit&t=ffab&iax=images&ia... for "search reddit" gets porn on the second screen for me.

Maybe it's your DDG "safe search" preferences. There are three options: Strict, Moderate, Off. I clicked the link you provided and not any adult content showed up (it's in "moderate" mode by default). Some adult content appeared in results after I changing it to "off".

OK, yea, my filter is set to off. But still, the search I made was regarding completely innocuous programming related stuff, why should adult results come up that quickly? My Google preferences are also set to no filtering and I looked almost 10 pages deep there (just to check), and no adult results showed up.

You asked “reddit search” and there’s substantial amount of porn on reddit.

The majority of NSFW results in DDG comes from karmadecay.com, it’s a reverse image search engine.

Google doesn’t like that domain, you won’t get images from there even if you’ll search for the domain name. Google will only show result from that domain if you limit search to that domain with “site:karmadecay.com”

Have no idea why Google’s doing that. Could be google breaking antitrust laws (they have a reverse image search as well), or could be purely technical reasons.

Personally, I prefer DDG’s approach. If you’re using DDG in work environment and don’t want NSFW result, just set the safe search preference. Google appears to censor the results even if you explicitly asked not to.

>Have no idea why Google’s doing that.

It's duplicate content. That's punished in the SERPs.

Search “karmadecay” on google images. You’ll get zero results from karmadecay.com. Not on the first page, not on the 10-th page, it’s just not there.

Normally, the domain is very strong keyword. Search for “facebook” and the first image will be from facebook.com, search for “duckduckgo” and you’ll see a screenshot image hosted on duckduckgo.com on the 7-th place (not the first I expected but still high enough).

I’m not sure how your duplicate content remark explains this behavior. karmadecay has original logo image, why it’s not found?

A search for "site:karmadecay.com" brings up some results. (warning: mostly nsfw)

Right, I have wrote that in my first comment:

> Google will only show result from that domain if you limit search to that domain with “site:karmadecay.com”

The question is, why doesn’t normal image search show that site ever, despite tons of content?

I know technical reasons are still possible, but so is google breaking laws, they have quite a history of unlawful behavior and have paid billions in fines for that.

>Right, I have wrote that in my first comment

My mistake.

>I know technical reasons are still possible...

It could be as simple as a penalty for breaking one of their webmaster guidelines.

> could be as simple as a penalty for breaking one of their webmaster guidelines.

Agree. Could also be for not having a mobile-friendly version, or for not using AMP.

Still, even if google does nothing illegal here and acts in good faith, do you think it’s OK to de-prioritize relevant search results based on these technicalities?

As a consumer, when I search stuff in a desktop browser, I don’t give a damn about mobile versions nor webmaster guidelines. I want search results relevant to my search query. Arbitrary limitations imposed on web masters by search engine decrease quality of results.

>Still, even if google does nothing illegal here and acts in good faith, do you think it’s OK to de-prioritize relevant search results based on these technicalities?

I do. That's actually the job of a search engine. If it wasn't choosing ranking factors, then it would just be a directory search.

Search engines are far more useful and relevant because they give more context to their results.

>when I search stuff in a desktop browser, I don’t give a damn about mobile versions

Desktop SERPs are actually different than mobile SERPs. They're crawled and indexed independently. A bad mobile site won't affect desktop results.

Nice idea, I even tried it myself. What happens though is you start putting "!g" before every search, since DDG is unreliable and searching twice adds friction.

for me its about 30% of the searches, not every search. Its fine for very regular stuff, the kind where a Wikipedia page exists but not that great for deep searches.

Before you search, you don't know if it will be in the 30% or the 70%. It is quicker to always add "!g" than it is to search twice 30% of the time.

I have seen the same in other queries too. I have started sending them some feedback. They have an option for results.

Haven’t yet noticed an improvement, but I haven’t been saving the queries I’ve sent to double check those.

I switched a year or so ago. The results are different. They feel less spot on but they provide more depth. Google will typically give me the answer I'm looking for on the first page but if it doesnt the second/third/fourth page will not have it either. They will be very similar to the first page.

DDG doesnt always have the right answer on the first page. But it may be on the second. Or the third. It's worth checking them at least. Realizing this made my DDG experience better.

You can't have personalized, targeted results without being tracked.

Perhaps I am alone in this but but all I want is a really really good crawler that can find the exact subset of results containing all of the keywords I query.

Regional/targeted/personalized results often add noise.

I appreciate that this is what google needs in order to monetize on ads. And that real verbatim searches are likely more resource hungry.

I just wish there was an option to pay some form premium subscription service where I can have really in depth verbatim search without being treated as 'suspicious' activity by the engine.

I would like a service that just keeps an up to date corpus of the web. Or at least the top few terabytes. Then I can pay the few dollars a month to run a giant map reduce grep on it.

For most of my searches, debugging a few specific strings, I really just need grep. It’s too much for one person to crawl the web. But a good distributed network could.

Personalized and targeted results aren't good results.

Didn't say they are, but I have a feeling that this is exactly what the original commenter is missing

I have the same issue where DDG sometimes just doesn't give relevant search results. That's when I use Google. But I also use temporary containers and no google accounts, so I'm not getting personalized results and they're still better.

The fact someone doesn’t have an account does not mean they aren’t being tracked or that google (or any platform) can’t create a profile for you.

Not saying it’s effective with the containers you’re using though.

I beg to differ, they are actually essential in my case.

It's almost like Google is actually good at Search and replicating that isn't easy

I know it's partly snark, but I think Google is not actually that good at it. Not because they are complacent, but because search is a hard problem and there is no objectively 'good' results to any arbitrary query.

There is a tradeoff for any given user between getting the most popular results and what could be the most 'accurate' result. I find myself using several search engines depending on what I want (apart from Google/DDG, you always have the option to go directly to amazon or StackOverflow for instance), and am pretty happy about it.

But saying Google is good at search is a bit like praising Wallmart for being good at retail. Sure, they are to some extent, but there are clear tradeoffs we need to be aware of.

https://www.startpage.com/ is really good. Google search but anonymized

If DDG results are unsatisfactory, you can add a `!s' to your query and it will take you to the results of startpage.com

I experimented with DDG, but startpage is giving me better results at this time - especially if you are searching for something more local. So I set startpage.com as default search engine on all of my devices. I may try it again later...

Yeah, I switched to DDG, but it didn't give me satisfactory results, particularly for debugging searches. Moved to startpage, and am a happy user since two weeks now.

I've been using DDG for so many years as my sole means of searching the internet (though I thought when I first started using it, it was proxing Google and not Bing) that I'm not sure if I'm getting satisfactory results back or not. It's not like I'm doing a head to head comparison with Google.

> I thought when I first started using it, it was proxing Google and not Bing

It probably was, it proxied google when I first used it, then at some point about 8 years ago or so it switched to bing and for a while I switched over to ixquick, but switched back to ddg and just got used to it proxying bing when ixquick dumbed their page down to match startpage.

I've been using DDG as my primary search engine for around a year now. I've kind of gotten a feel for the kind of searches I do that DDG doesn't handle very well. It's good for probably 95% of my searches but I still occasionally fall back on Google.

I've done the same, few months back. And yes, sometimes (well most of the time) results are not satisfactory if I'm looking for a specific thing (e.g Expecting a relevant result from StackOverFlow).

I'm using Firefox Containers, I hop on to Google Search with a temporary extension

I switched recently and I find general results satisfactory. Google does have some specialised stuff, such as details about stores/cinemas around me, or championship league results, but I just look them up with a !g bang.

I haven't used google to search for several years now. Except by mistake on someone elses computer. And then I get disappointed on the results.

DDG if fine for some things, but I mainly use Startpage.com as a privacy focused Google alternative.

You can precede your query on DDG with !g to get Google results.

duckduckgo is definitely not an alternative for google. you can't even compare.

It is in some use cases. For programming related queries, it oftentimes gives me better results than Google because it's not trying to be clever and guess what I could actually mean.

I second this, notably for programming related queries. I have been using DDG for a year or so now, and never looked back.

I do not quite agree. I found that duckduckgo often returns too many results from the same website, which is for programming related search queries often stackoverflow. The same query on Google leads (for me) often times to more diverse results which include more different base urls.

Neither is Vimeo for YouTube or Apple Maps for Google Maps. Those were pathetic suggestions and in my mind ruin the credibility of the rest of the post. There is enormous value to the end user in the integration between search, navigation and reviews. So I’m supposed to find a place to eat on duck duck go, then find reviews in yelp, and finally go to Apple maps to get directions? That’s not a real alternative for anyone but the most privacy focused users is it?

> I'm supposed to find a place to eat on duck duck go, then find reviews in yelp, and finally go to Apple maps to get directions?

Or you could use yelp for all of it. I just typed "lunch" in and it gave me a list of reasonable placrs nearby, meanwhile Google maps listed every restaurant around me, including places not open for lunch.

Tapping a restaurant on yelp gives me the reviews and there an option in the app to get directions. I'm on Android so I can't check, but from when I used iOS I remember yelp defaults to apple maps for directions.

Seems like a good alternative to me.

I use both. I start with DDG. If I sense it's not finding what I seek, I switch. I end up getting a second opinion from Google approx 15-20% of the time. That's better than give Google 100% of my queries.

I've been using DuckDuckGo for about 2 years now. Absolutely no issues.

There's a viable alternative for every service Google offers. Fuck Google.

Why do you think that?

I switched to duckduckgo about a year ago and never even looked back. The results are perfectly fine and I am pretty satisfied with them. What do you feel is not comparable? One thing I noticed, which is great, that duckduckgo does not filter/censor your search results (except pictures).

edit: The only "bad" thing about it is its name. typing duckduckgo.com into the url bar when I am on some other computer takes kinda long, but I am okay with that

The domain ddg.gg redirects to duckduckgo.com

For me where I live (Northern Europe) apple maps and open street maps or any other maps for that matter suck big time. Google maps is the only app which can search for places in a meanfingul way. I search for an ATM nearby but I get results which are 400kms away in apple maps.

Did you try HERE WeGo?

Originally made by Nokia. I tried it on a trip to Helsinki in 2015 and IIRC, it worked better than Google Maps.

One thing I like about them is the offline mode which is great when traveling abroad. However their app is less that enjoyable to use.

Yes I have. It is a bit better but unfortunately it is most of the times outdated. It doesn’t keep up with changes in the road network. I also bike a lot and finding bike routes is especially hard in HERE WeGo or other maps. Google maps is the only reliable one.

How are Bing maps in your area?

Still early for a release (work in progress/use at your own risk) but I'm having real fun working on dnsadblock.com. Within days it made me switch from Chrome to Firefox. As soon as I changed my DNS server Chrome tried to contact it's mothership roughly 146,000 times in just 24 hours. Being able to see the actual numbers is something scary.

Have you tried the ungoogled Chromium build? Not sure why anyone would use Chrome.

Separately, if you have android you should install Netguard, the no root firewall, to see how often most apps are phoning home + block them from capturing unnecessary data.

Not using Google is just the tip of the iceberg!

There’s so much information you leave out there just by browsing the internet ( https://everysiteknows.ferrucc.io ) or clicking on things.

I also don’t see any alternatives to Google Analytics, Google Adsense, Google Fonts and Google DNS. All these services are something most users don’t opt-in for and are the kind of side businesses that feed the data that makes google the best search engine out there

Google DNS? Easy. Cloudflare DNS.

Gmail is the main problem. I use it as a backup email and as an ID for registering about everywhere.

Thing is, what is a reliable email alternative that is certain to be around long term, that I can use to register? Google can afford to keep gmail up for my foreseeable life time, what other email services (free or paid) can I trust with that?

Edit: I do have my own domain, but I don't consider that as reliable as something maintained by a large organization.

What are you most concerned with? Keeping the email address active yourself for new mail or keeping your mail archive?

For the first point, you are already set. You have your own custom domain and can point that to any provider you find trustworthy, including Gmail, Fastmail, ProtonMail, Outlook, etc.

For the second point, nobody is as responsible for keeping proper backups as you are. Every provider could go under or have a glitch, as unlikely as it is with the bigger providers. Every provider allows you to take your data out, be it through reular syncing or downloading periodic snapshots.

Hmm no, I know how to handle my own mail. My concern is that gmail is a good backup solution that always works, including when I'm in the middle of nowhere with no time or inclination to fix my custom domain.

What I'm most concerned with is the email address as identity. It's the key to all my online accounts via the reset password form. Jumping from provider to provider with my own custom domain works the same, but with more hassle. I'd rather move (my identity) to another online service, as long as I'm reasonably certain that my email addy will exist for 20+ years.

> the key to all my online accounts

Most services support primary email/login change

> Most services support primary email/login change

They do, but would you like to do that every couple years if, say fastmail or any other service goes out of bussiness? Do you even remember all of them, so you can change the email in time if your provider gives you advance warning that they're shutting down? Long term, it's complicated.

You buy your own domain, and change the MX record if you move.

Yes, you have to plan ahead unfortunately until someone comes along and offers an "email address for life" you can forward anywhere.

> what is a reliable email alternative that is certain to be around long term

iCloud email

Uh... I'm not sure I trust Apple's online services. Technically, I mean. How many times did they change their email solution in the past 10 years? I think it was called mobile.me at one point?

And before anyone goes into Apple fanboy mode, I'm typing this on a macbook pro, my phone is an iPhone, and my desktop is a Hackintosh ;)

I have a hack too :) iCloud will stay. And I'll bet all old adresses are still working.

I have an old @me address. It was just migrated into iCloud.

Yup, all of them, @me.com, @mac.com are still working. https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201771

Or Outlook

It does not matter if you do not use GMail, google/microsoft/<insert any other popular email provider here> has all your emails anyways, since everybody sends you emails from those domains.

Quite the difference between <insertproviderhere> having all your emails and <insertallprovidershere> having all your emails if they were to pitch together.

Huge difference between Google being aware that an email alias <name>@<domain> exists and it having access to the contents of all your emails including purchases, subscriptions, login patterns, GPS data, connections to other emails, etc.

And if they didn't get it from Google, they'd get it from someone else. Just like they did for centuries before email came around.

I find startpage.com to give a lot better results than DDG. I never seem to hear about others using it. Is it just not well known?

I use it. But comparing it to DDG is a bit unfair IMHO since startpage is basically a proxy to google search.

About Google Drive, the article says: "This also means your files are never stored on a single server in the cloud"

The assumption that all the files in Google Drive is in a single server is false.

You can sync Google Drive on one or more computers and have local backup copies too. That is also not mentioned.

and DeepL instead of translate, at least if your language is supported. the translations are really good.

Yeah generally a lot better than Google Translate.

I'm making micro steps forth and back.

Ditched Chrome, using Brave.

Tried DuckDuckGo but - very subjective - it has results that don't work for me, so I'm mostly back to Google.

Removed Google Maps, mostly use Maps.me now.

Remove Google mobile Mails app, now using Nine.

More like a piece of advertisement for DDG.

Avoiding google is tricky.Not impressed.

I'm surprised they neglected to mention invidio.us as an alternative way to access YouTube, it's a step above using DuckDuckGo for YouTube imo.

I've tried with DuckDuckGo for 2/3 months, and the images search, something that I use quite a lot, was pretty unsatisfactory.

You will find out the answer if you live in China

Has anyone used tor regularly for a long time for news consumption and as a social interaction with like minded people ?

I think it’s funny that people try to cut FAANG out of their lives and still use Linux, which is primarily contributed to by FAANG and other corporations like Intel and IBM.

Also DuckDuckGo is so slow. I mean how are they supposed to compete with Google’s edge network? Then they have innacurate results, the first result is usually a deceiving looking ad, and you have to take them at their word that they aren’t also selling your data.

And use what? Windows 10? That's like using FB as your operating system.

Soes anyone know if the Vivaldi browser supports multiple users / instances the way Chrome does?

Does anyone have a good alternative to Google Voice?

You can find a SIP provider (Flowroute, SIP.US, SIPSTATION.com, Twilio, OnSIP, and many more) that will allow you to either use a desk phone or a software-based phone with a telephone number of your choosing. It's never free, and you can expect to pay $0.009 - $0.02 per-minute for all calls.

Disclaimer: I work for one of the companies that I listed in parentheses.

Depends a bit on which specific workflows you're using Google Voice to enable, but as someone not living in America (so don't have access to Google Voice), I can give you a succinct answer to that: No.

If I want to be able to answer phone calls on my PC, my only options are either an SIP softphone, or a Mac/iPhone using Continuity.

I primarily want two things:

1) one phone number that calls all my phones, and 2) voicemail that sends me a text and/or email with a transcription of the message

Yeah, there's no general solution... basically you need all the hassle that comes with configuring and using a hosted SIP provider for those features you want.

For Maps -

Well, I don't trust Apple either.

Waze was good, but now Google has it.

Yeah, we have a plenty alternative services, but only two dominated mobile OS (and three desktop). Isn't you are looking for a problem in a wrong direction?

is it even possible?

This personal account showed it's at least very difficult. Many website use code supported by Google.


There's a continuum. For some people, it's probably virtually impossible. For some people, there's one or two services that don't yet have reasonable replacements. And some people seem to have completely removed it from their lives and are doing fine. Google has so many services that everybody's use will be different.


> Alot of users are not aware that DuckDuckGo makes money from ads, so they do track you.

This is a lie, from what I can tell? DDG's ads aren't exactly inconspicuous, and they claim plenty of times that they're targeted exclusively on current search query keywords. So no history or tracking involved.

Correct, our advertising is context-based, not based on a profile or search history. In other words, if you search for "car" you might see a car-related ad, but car-related ads won't then follow you around.

Incidentally it's also possible to disable ads in our settings: https://duckduckgo.com/settings

(Disclaimer: DuckDuckGo staff)

You should stop advertising your product in all of your comments.

Ads doesn’t mean they have to track you. I assume (and it seems like) DDG targets their ads based on your search query and not personal information, and afaik they are very open about this.

That's right - please see my comment above for a bit more detail.

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