Not to mention, I would tip my hat to Google for forcing every one of these "alternatives" to be better, because before Google, these services sucked. AOL sucked. MS sucked. OSS sucked. Firefox sucked -- thanks Chrome.
These are not the alternatives you're looking for. People should definitely care about their privacy, and they should definitely live on platforms that encourage interop. However, these articles focus far too much on trying to frame Google as some evil actor, when we could be championing everything Google has done well and how their competitors -- alternatives -- should be doing better.
I'm not suggesting that Google is evil. What I am saying is, these products don't work for me and the reason they don't work is that they aren't interoperable with my own desktop software, or the rest of the Internet. I actually do use desktop calendaring software which will stop working this summer. I communicate with people via XMPP who are not on Talk. I used to use Listen and Reader. I'm only looking to migrate off Voice because it's not going to be available. I was pretty perturbed when all of a sudden, anyone I ever emailed appeared as a pre-approved contact on Talk.
So, it isn't about Google being evil or not. Google has a responsibility to its shareholders to make money, and I trust that they're trying to fulfill that mandate as well as possible. In doing so, they've shifted their portfolio of properties into a closed ecosystem that does not appeal to me as a consumer.
At this point, I imagine most alternatives suck because there's really no point in going up against free and awesome. Case in point: Reader. Reader really was awesome, and it had no competitors because no one would bother competing with it.
I imagine that as Google does offend more of its users, some competition might heat up, but I'm well aware that for most people, none of this matters in the slightest. It's a narrow cross section of geeks who notice or understand any of this.
What's the software? Google CalDAV support isn't actually going away, it's just switching to a whitelist, so depending on your client, it should be fine. I don't know how that's going to work exactly (is it just an API key? how will that work with open source calendaring software like Lightning?), but if it's even moderately actively maintained software, it's likely that they've already applied for access.
> Google started by dropping XMPP invites under the questionable guise of spam protection (from the article)
Just FYI, they turned federation back on shortly afterwards. Of course, it's being dropped for the new chat system, but it's worth getting that right.
> Fastmail is owned by Opera Software and operates both free and paid tiers of service
As others have pointed out, there is no free tier, just a free trial. And if you're going to pay for it, I don't really see the difference between that and going full Google Apps, but that's just me. (edit: ah, apparently there used to be a free tier, but no longer)
Regardless, paying for the services you use is a good thing, both for getting better guarantees for service, and for teaching the market that ad-supported services aren't the end-all be-all, that we can have other business models, and maybe even a diverse market of them to support different uses and different requirements.
So many thanks to Ken for finding what appears to be a good alternative. Time to convince my family to switch email providers.
He listed these things to justify his arguments but almost none of them hold any water.
In terms of XMPP, I checked yesterday. After updating the Android Talk app to Hangouts, all of my XMPP contacts disappeared.
In terms of email, using Google Apps on a custom domain would avoid lockin and actually not be a bad choice, at least for now. I went with Fastmail anyway, and I think it's just a better service.
For XMPP, it's the Hangouts app that I was referring to as the "new chat system". Federation for regular google talk was turned back on, but you'll need a third party XMPP client now, I guess. Fortunately they're quite common.
> I actually do use desktop calendaring software which
> will stop working this summer.
> I communicate with people via XMPP who are not on Talk.
If Google actually does shut down support for either of these open protocols, feel free to object as much as possible. I'll be right there beside you. But right now you're jumping from "Google might possibly drop support at some indeterminate point in the future" to "Google will definitely drop support in a month", which is not supported by evidence.
In some ways, they already have. To the best of my knowledge, you can no longer obtain the Google Talk Android app from the Play Store anymore. It has been replaced by the Hangouts app.
You could probably download the Google Talk APK from some third party, but how long will that function on future Android versions when any OS hooks are being altered for Hangouts interoperability?
Sure, you can use a third party XMPP client on Android, but the writing is on the wall here.
> In some ways, they already have. To the best of my
> knowledge, you can no longer obtain the Google Talk
> Android app from the Play Store anymore. It has been
> replaced by the Hangouts app.
> Sure, you can use a third party XMPP client on Android,
> but the writing is on the wall here.
You're complaining about Google doing something bad before Google has announced any intention to do it. If Google actually does drop support for XMPP -- that is, if they announce one day that people will no longer be able to chat with federated servers from a standalone XMPP client -- then go wild.
My last sentence kind of expresses my whole point: "the writing is on the wall". I think that what's left of their XMPP support will be phased out sooner rather than later as everyone jumps ship to the new platform.
That they terminated their app (Google Talk) on their leading platform speaks volumes about where XMPP is going.
To add fuel to the fire, I think Google Voice as we know it is going away, too. :) I can't see how they're generating worthwhile profits on it.
That's pretty harsh. Firefox has always been for me the most awesome browser available.
It's true that Chrome delivered some niceties for user experience and performance, forcing Firefox to follow suit in some areas.
However, Chrome stands on the shoulders of giants, like Firefox and it wouldn't be a good browser without such shoulders. Google should be really thankful to Firefox and I'm sure they are.
Also, Firefox is improving by leaps and bounds lately and after several months of Chrome, I realized that I cannot live without Firefox.
(yes, I'm typing this from Firefox)
This is not going to be a popular view, but here goes anyway...
Depends. I've been using Outlook Web Access since it was first released. Granted, you need Exchange, but these days Outlook.com provides similar functionality (or so I'm told - I use Exchange Online now).
That said, the most useful calendar I've found is Family Room on Windows Phone. I share it with my girlfriend, who has an iPhone, and it works insanely well for us.
I have to use Gmail at work, and find it to be the most obtuse email UX I've ever encountered.
Microsoft's online services are better than Google's. I could list a million and one reasons ranging from being ad-free, document fidelity in Office and the fact that I can't sort my Gmail inbox by sender. And while it has its faults, I have not found a better email client (UX and functional breadth) than Outlook. Here.com is better than Google Maps (true offline being a big deal for me), and Here.com's Transit app is the best public transport app I've found. I don't know how SkyDrive stacks up against competitors, because SkyDrive is good enough for me.
Why exactly do you think Google is better?
 It amused me to see Google's transit implementation in Google Maps - it's a horizontal version of the vertically oriented Windows Phone app from Nokia, which's excellent and has been around for ages.
I almost wish we could pin a story like this just to cut some of those comments.
There are days when there will be multiple stories on the front page at the same time with comments asking, "what are the alternatives to gmail?" with the inevitable, "well, fastmail is a good choice" and then someone will bring up running your own server, and then someone else will respond about spam and blacklisting and downtime, and someone else will say something about they've been doing it for 5 years and it's not that hard, etc etc etc
Running fastmail's servers is some orders of magnitude harder.
Their resources have not stopped lesser alternatives from doing business, even with a core product (eg. search) of their's, so it's not that. DuckDuckGo is doing quite well with search; those conversations usually talk about quality and speed of results, not on how Google is the new Altavista and how you should switch before Google deprecates HTTP for GTTP.
Well, there's an account out there with my real name tied to it that I never wanted to happen and to this day have no idea how it got there. I don't have a Google + account. Probably there was something that I clicked when I was tying my mobile phone to my Google account or something. I can't find any way to delete it either.
My YouTube account keeps telling me I should use my real name there as well....
Basically they try to make you give them things - they're an invasive presence. Does this make them evil? I don't know, I don't care. People who want to argue about good and evil are often avoiding arguing about the real issues, like whether someone's a nasty piece of work, or whether they're being abusive. When someone behaves like a scoundrel you know what sort of person they are, whether you can call them evil or not. What I do know is that my next phone is not going to be an android phone - and, when it isn't, I'll delete my google account entirely. I don't want people who treat me like that in my life. They make me feel dirty for associating with them.
In terms of private risk - well, bam. They're OS manufacturers. If they want to screw you, you're screwed. Do either of them seem to be in the habit of screwing their customers? I don't think so. Again, I might be wrong.
I think, in terms of private vulnerability, if you're seriously concerned with that, then you have to start off with the assumption that your device is a traitor. I remember back when we were playing around with using phones microphones to eavesdrop on people even when the phone was turned off. You've got a snitch in your pocket - if you want to do something private from the people who made it, leave it at home.
All that being, from my point of view, more or less equal then - (and I'm open to feedback on any of this since I'm not religiously tied to either option.) I'm currently leaning towards Windows Phone. It looks like it has a really nicely thought out interface.
A lot of it will depend on which keyboard is better. That was the reason I opted for an android for my first phone - that it had the ability to change keyboard if I didn't like it.
Windows Phone's weakest points are probably the designs of its handsets and the app availability. But I don't use many apps anyway, and the hardware, IMO, isn't worse than iphone, it's just not as good as the best of android.
The things that might lean me more towards iphone is that I want to get a tablet at some point - and I've not seen any good Windows 8 Tablets. If I'm going to be curling up in bed for some reading, I don't really want something that's heavy and hot. It's gonna be easier if my tablet and my phone are both on the same system.
It's far from a perfect solution, whatever I choose. Android has, it seems to me, the best overall experience across tablets and phones, but the pushiness of Google's a deal killer. Windows has the best phone of the two remaining (and according to some of my girlfriends the best phone experience overall anyway) and Apple seem to have the best tablet of the remaining two.
I'm not strongly tied to any option at the moment though. I might even end up getting a Linux device - though the fact that they run on Android hardware which ties back to google is troubling.
Anything that you'd recommend?
It's not a stretch to say that Google can't be trusted not to be evil if they've moved in a more evil (or less good) direction.
I do consider a shift toward less openness to be inherently less good. I don't consider Google to suddenly be this evil company.
Google is, however, to be a very powerful company (and therefore a very dangerous company by nature), and a moral regression in policy is certainly an unnerving thing to see. I love a lot of things Google has done. I love a lot of their products, projects, practices, etc. I just can't consider Google to be a safe place.
I aim for clarity (often missing it entirely), and using absolute terms such as 'good' and 'evil' reduces clarity. I'm glad that I found this comment.
Sorry but the influence of Chrome on Firefox has been universally negative perhaps with the exception of performance.
I also object to the lack of a menu bar, for bookmarks in particular. I have an extension that emulates it, but nothing that can properly emulate treeview tabs - I can't imagine ever going to a browser without this.
It does have a menu bar, with bookmarks in particular. http://i.imgur.com/awPDYp4.jpg
"the influence of Chrome on Firefox has been universally negative"
...that's saying a whole heck of a lot more than, they made some UI decisions that were personally disagreeable to you but not necessarily to other people.
Opera was pretty awesome before Google turned up and release Chrome.