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Don't be evil: Moving everything off of Google (samwhited.com)
442 points by SamWhited on July 12, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 300 comments

Depressing thread this....

I think this thread demonstrates why the privacy issues with the likes of google, facebook, etc are pretty much vapor complaints. Essentially, people are happy in the end to sacrifice privacy for convenience. With that mind set, we can easily see why no one really cares about NSA slurping. As far as they are concerned, all the NSA has is what facebook, gmail etc, have. So, what is the problem exactly? And you know what, I can understand the point. I disagree, but equally, I understand.

Having read about how people won't move form FB because it easy to stay there, since their "friends" are there, I now realize most people really are not committed to privacy while it means some sort of inconvenience. There is even a reply here where a friend who wont use facebook is referred to as an "outcast"... Understandable, but also says it all.


You're presenting a false choice: It's entirely possible to care about privacy, and still use Facebook and GMail.

Simply pretend that everything you post on Facebook and GMail is in the public domain, posted in the public square.

If I never share anything I don't want public, then my privacy is guaranteed. I'd advise others with privacy concerns to do the same.

Given that you NEVER KNOW, EVER that you can 100% trust the people you're sharing with (no matter which media you use), I think people are kind of crazy to act any other way.

This only considers the current state of 3rd parties, governments, and laws. The gigantic issue with all this is that everything is stored indefinitely. Also, laws and governments change. What's to stop you from suffering tomorrow for seemingly innocuous actions you performed today? And I'm not just talking about getting prosecuted for some specific crime. This data is used as a means of proactive prosecution and profiling. This means that the powers that be are actively looking for signals in the noise that indicate crime(and most likely just things they don't agree with, illegal or not). If the profile created off your various seemingly innocent actions and "meta-data" over the course of many years puts you within the error bars, you could become a false positive. With secret courts, secret prisons, and indefinite detention all possible, what's to stop you from simply disappearing? Or, at the vary least, what's to stop all of this from ruining your life even if you are never convicted of anything(e.g. months of detention and interrogation without prosecution, inability to travel, holds placed on bank accounts, calls to employer, etc...)?

That said, the focus shouldn't be on the companies that collect this data. They are simply doing the best they can to make a profit within the bounds of the law. No, the issue is government. There should be strict laws regulating how data is collected and stored(even non "PII") and even stricter laws around how 3rd parties are allowed to consume, store, and use this data, especially governments. But alas, this is asking the police to police themselves, so I guess this will never happen.

I opted out of facebook, years ago. Now I am seriously considering the possibility to go back because I fear the lack of an idiot FB profile will at some point be a strongly weighted part of the very signal you are mentioning.

So, cat pics for everyone!!!

It's sad that the default state for most people is to have a facebook account and that you have to decide to opt out. I did the same a few years ago and its a painful process with lots of downsides (missed invitations and opportunities to track people down). Taking your privacy seriously means its also harder for friends and family to find you.

Taking your privacy seriously means its also harder for friends and family to find you.

I don't follow. My friends and family have always know how to find me. This has been true even without Facebook.

They know because I've told them. Often in person. Or by phone.

I'm sort of puzzled by the idea of there being people who are important to me who I don't keep in regular touch with without having to rely on some specific Web site.

If anything, sites like Facebook are good for looking into people I don't really care about, or who don't really care about me.

That's not the case for everybody.

I personally live thousand kilometers away from my family and friends, and it's just hard to keep in touch with everybody without a social network. Phone calls, mails and chat would never be as efficient/cheap/time-saving that social networks. Plus, they lack that "social" thing.

Regarding that "elitism" when you talk about your friends, there's "family and close friends", and there's "friends", the ones that are not _that_ important in your life, but with whom you'd still like to be in touch with.

Take for example the "keeping in touch" point. I'm going home in few weeks, I just had to post a Facebook status to tell all my friends so we can meet. How would I do it without Facebook? Send mails? Not everyone use emails. Call them, it's freaking expensive.

Privacy concerns scare me, and that's why I'm trying to leave Google stuff, but leaving Facebook is just impossible at the moment, simply because it's useful and there's no alternative.

I guess it's different if you have a large extended family. Personally, the extended family on my mother's side keeps a directory (she had a large family) of email + phone + address for all of the aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Someone just updates it once a year.

I can see people relying on Facebook to keep track of this rather than needing to have someone manually manage it. On the other hand, since it's family, you can just call someone you do have the number for, and work your way through the chain to get to someone that has the correct info.

Facebook has become an essential communications platform. Opting out is like someone opting out of the telephone 50 years ago because the operator could listen in to your calls.

The privacy concerns we have about Facebook I know older relatives had about the telephone. To this day they still refrain from giving out much information on it and keep calls as short as possible.

This is not true and Facebook is getting tedious for many people. The web is what matters not Facebook.

A good time time to join Facebook would be after their first major data loss/leak/scam/disaster.

Tell me how I can share private information, but avoid the consequences you describe. I don't believe you can. Therefore, I see no particular disadvantage to Facebook and GMail (over any other possible solution), as long as I realize that the government IS watching me.

And yes, the issue is government.

It's technically possible with encryption. One cannot be sure that said encryption will not be trivially broken in the future, but theres a massive difference between using a service that doesn't know how to read your data now and one that does.

It doesn't matter if it's technically possible, because the legal framework can still punish you:


I wish I knew... :-/

Facebook tracks your external web browsing history through the use of their embedded buttons, and links that history with your profile. So even if you don't post private information to Facebook, they're tracking your private activity unless you take measures to block such buttons across the web.

...or use Facebook in a different browser (or Incognito), or specifically log out of Facebook when you're not using it.

Or only use it in the Facebook App on your phone, but never log your browser in to it.

"Logging in" is completely broken on the internet - no argument, there.

The other two approaches may work, but

> or specifically log out of Facebook when you're not using it

will probably not, because they set tracking cookies that remain even when you log out.

Complete speculation here, but if they're willing to do that, who's to say they don't link traffic from known IP addresses as well? It might be linked less strongly but in many cases could still be associated in some way. They track web browsing for non-users already anyway, so if they can connect that to existing users by IP I'd be fairly surprised if they didn't.

In order to prevent this, you have to block trackers in all your browsers and devices with Ghostery or similar tools.

Browser user agent string alone is quite accurate identification [1]. Just add IP/country data on top of that..

If people can't be bothered to care about security, they won't be interested in doing this.

With the immaturity of the app permissions model and Facebook's abysmal record, I feel like you're far better off using a mobile browser (in incognito, of course) than the mobile app.

or on a different computer.

connected to the neighbor's open wifi?

Nope, not if you're outside the US. Seriously getting sick of repeating this, but whatever. Facebook Ireland (mmm, double Irish) is the data controller for all Facebook users outside the US, and they released a report which prevents facebook from doing this. AFAIK, they said that this data can only be retained for 30 days and cannot be linked to user profiles and/or used for targeted advertising.

For some strange reason, the same requirements do not apply to Google, and Twitter are currently being investigated.

Facebook can't track you regardless of whether you have an account much less whether are logged in IF you use Firefox's RequestPolicy plugin.

was about to post the same. Request policy + noscript ftw

Facebook tracks your external web browsing history through the use of their embedded buttons, and links that history with your profile

Not if you log out of FB. Conveniently, the "Like" button tells you when you're logged in and the "(Not You?)" link allows you to log out of FB whenever you notice you're still logged in. Hmm, this gives me an idea for an indicator browser extension.

Yes, it does, through the use of tracking cookies that persist after you log out. They also track non-users.

They say they don't keep shadow profiles of your external Web traffic [though I can't imagine that's true].

In line with other responses, I use a browser plugin that blocks all traffic to Facebook when I'm not on a facebook.com domain, and I exclusively sign in via incognito mode so the session is destroyed when I'm finished.

Easy enough: I have a separate browser for connecting to Facebook. I also have the usual set of tracker-blocking plugins installed on Firefox, which I use for normal browsing.

Google also tracks you on non-Google sites that use Google-hosted Ajax libraries, which is a huge chunk of the web.

If they do, that's a lot more devious that Facebook's "like" button, because if you block it, then the site doesn't work.

That's silly. I block it (via the someonewhocares host file) and not it works but makes browsing faster.

Only downside is when i click done actual useful advertising result on gsearch i get a 404 :)

How is it silly? When someone loads jQuery from Google, and their site depends on jQuery, do you expect the site to still work when you block Google's CDN?

no major provider serve ads and jquery/yui mirrors from the same CNAME...

i know your example is moot because google doesn't

I agree with you that it's a false choice.

But the part about never sharing anything private with anyone, regardless of the media used... maybe I'm misunderstanding it. That sounds like a terrible way to live. By living that way, you are not retaining your privacy... you've already lost it.

You could die when get on plane, but you still do it, because the reward is worth the risk. Someone could wire tap my house, but I don't let that stop me from having private conversations with my family. There's a risk/reward balance that each of us have to set with respect to our privacy and our ability to share and interact with other people. To say the risk always outweighs the reward seems a little extreme.

Pretend I choose that the risk of me sharing something with you (that you might make it public) is worth it.

By doing that, and using any given media that I don't entirely control and that I can't guarantee I can perfectly secure, I'm also accepting the risk that either the provider of the service(s), or a hacker, could also make the information public or share it with the government.

Think about the risk of my friends making the information public, intentionally or unintentionally (they have lousy passwords, or share passwords with friends, or don't use SSL in a cafe, or have an easy to guess Password Recovery answers, or they forget to log out on a computer someone can sneak onto, or they get hit by a keylogger and don't use two-factor authentication like I do, or they get hit by phishing).

I think that risk is ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE more likely than the risk that the media provider (Google, Facebook) will, intentionally or unintentionally, make the information public. Or somehow use it to harm me.

Also, the damage, should that risk occur, to me, is very low. (Based on the type of information I share.)

Now, every layer of the service provider is also demonstrably sharing with the government. That's happening.

And many people here are blaming Google (the victim) rather than the government (the abuser), which makes no sense to me.

I accept the argument that we ALL need protection from government spying. I really do. But I have yet to see someone propose how to avoid using an ISP. And many of the people abandoning Google are still running Windows. Or how to abandon a major cell provider.

Dropping Google, while continuing to use major ISPs and Cell providers is like changing which STAMP you put on your postcard, and expecting that will somehow stop the postman from reading it.

Given the scope and reach such services have, one ought to be parsimonious with any private information put online, because it might eventually be correlated with the former.

The problem with that is that while you might be conscious of that, other people might not be. And you using Facebook and Gmail pulls these people in, for example an email sent to you by someone not using Gmail will still end up on Google’s servers.

Better yet, pretend that everything you say/post/share will be seen on a jumbotron at a packed sporting arena.

This way, you will have data security, better grammar, and fewer embarrassing personal moments.

It is a difficult choice, not a false one. That is why you and others are trying to justify not making one. Writing it off as false is a convenient excuse.

You just asserted that BECAUSE I use Facebook and GMail, that PROVES I don't care about privacy.

Your assertion is false.

> It is a difficult choice, not a false one.

Please state your case for this. VikingCoder stated theirs.

There is a really good talk (short too) from Moxie Marlinspike on privacy. His talk is very much along the same lines. Definitely worth watching.


The whole talk is about 45 minutes long, but yea, it's well worth watching. Thanks for sharing that!

I'm not sure if that's more depressing or that so many seem to feel that boy-cotting services is an effective way to address the illegal actions of governments and corporations.

I would hope that people would consider instead demanding we hold governments and organizations accountable for crimes directly and demand our rights be respected. Picking up your ball and going home is not the correct response to these things, nor will it help or fix anything.

exercising choice is exercising freedom. pleading for rights from entities that have seized them without your consent is truly depressing because it is hopeless.

Is it, or is it not criminal acts we are talking about here?

But ignoring that boycotts are largely fruitless. So if it is truly hopeless to demand your government respect your rights and freedoms then yes, you are probably fucked.

This, online services, and not taking action is no different than not taking action over bankers/politicians stealing your future.

If somebody had told me in say 2005 or 2006 that "hey, the government will just print like several trillions of dollars, ultimately backed only by your tax money, and just like that give them to failed banks and other corporations, the CEOs of said banks will then give themselves hefty bonuses for almost killing the economy. oh and the banks will also foreclose many peoples houses because the small people cant pay their debts either." and not one beep was heard from the population, not one broken window. Its not some small money stolen from them either, its entire college-educations and pensions, standard of living lowered. But, hey, they're still better than Africa so its fine.

It is not about convenience, it is about participating in society. I am dependent on Facebook to keep my friends. No quotation marks. They are my real friends and they moved there for a lot of important communication. Should I instead be an outcast? No, THAT would be depressing.

Please watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qzldtKV1PY , which nahname linked.

I'm never sure if this is a generational thing or just a who-you-happen-to-know thing, but the concept of being an "outcast" because of not using Facebook just sounds ludicrous to me. Your friends wouldn't IM you or email you or text you or call you or talk to you in person if you weren't on Facebook?

I have one friend who doesn't use Facebook (for reasons unrelated to privacy), and it's really quite frustrating. If someone wants to hang out, they send a group message on Facebook. Then someone has to be responsible for communicating to my "outcast" friend via some other medium about the event. This becomes a pain in the ass when trying to schedule things.

I personally would love to use email, but people just refuse to do it. Everyone wants to use Facebook because everyone is on it. Believe me, I've tried to get people to switch to email. But it always reverts back to Facebook.

I wonder why this was downvoted? It's presented as a factual anecdote about a real experience. I can only imagine 2 reasons to downvote this:

1.) You have evidence that burntsushi is lying and that the story is untrue.

2.) You don't want what burntsushi is saying to be true (you disagree with the lifestyle choices of burntsushi's friends).

Do we really downvote people for #2 on Hacker News? Or is their proof for #1?

For some (many?) people, these steps are followed:

1. Plan event (e.g. party)

2. Invite people on Facebook

It’s massively easier than texting/IMing people. Yeah, you will do it for people you really care about, but you can easily miss out if you aren’t on FB.

No they won't, and we are all in our late_30's/early_40's.

There are different kinds of friendships. One of the best kinds of friendships are the ones where you support each other, help each other with your hardest struggles. Spend time together, make each other feel safe, and push each other to be the best you can be. Things like this aren't really best done on Facebook. Frankly, most of what is best in life is not done on Facebook.

So these "real friends" of yours would stop talking to you if you do not use their favorite communication service? I think you may need to reevaluate either your assumptions about your friends or perhaps whether or not they really are your friends.

I have friends all of the world. I am not on Facebook or any other social networking service. Yes, I talk to my friends.

Yah, this argument always strikes me as hollow (or really sad). I have a lot of good friends. They are mostly on Facebook. I am not.

The worst that happens is that every now and then I get asked why I wasn't at the movies last night or something because they didn't realize that I couldn't see the invite.

Sorry. If you're dependent on Facebook to keep your friends, they are not your friends. They are your "facebook friends".

I deleted my facebook after the NSA leak partly due to feeling uncomfortable sharing that information with the government, but more because I feel that facebook doesn't really do much for me. I'd rather have 5 great friends than 200 "friends" who passively consume information about me.

Is it just me or was the author's point that services can disappear (Reader) yet most of these threads assume the reason to switch are privacy concerns. Maybe we're projecting too much?

Definitely not just you; privacy concerns were a very (very) small part of this (when Google has all of your data, they have more than the sum of the individual parts). In general, if I want more privacy, I'll say, use PGP instead of switching email providers.

This was about not relying too heavily on any one service provider. Plain and simple.

> [A]ll the NSA has is what facebook, gmail etc, have.

Facebook has what Facebook has. Google has what Google has. Verizon has what Verizon has. The NSA has what all of them have, put together. The NSA can therefore draw conclusions that Facebook and Verizon and Google can't, and therefore I lose privacy when that data is handed over even if I happen to use some subset of the services in question.

That's not my only objection, but it's a substantial one...

Privacy isn't just about hiding my data in general. It's also about hiding it from certain people.

I'm not sure why you haven't considered the possibility that I don't want the government to have my data from an entire collection of web sites, but might not mind any one particular web site having it. More to the point, I worry a lot more about what the government can do with my data than what Facebook can do.

Do you know what is depressing? The gamification of society, of human kind: in the past intelligence agencies needed intelligence and resources to work. Now, they press a button and they receive all the information without much effort.

Skipping the obvious opinion against the NSA and "The Society of Likes". At least taxpayers (how I hate this word! but it is ironic in this context) should force the Government to fire a big percentage of its workforce since the work is trivial and algorithms to analyze the information are in general already published.

if someone made an sGoogle/sFacebook/s whatever that could move your info and maintain same look/functionality with one button, people would switch, because a button switch for more security (like turning the deadbolt on your door) is something people are willing to do. Otherwise the cost of switching is too high.

The fact that people are not prepared to stand alone doesn't mean they don't care about privacy.

Very few people are in a position to make a difference alone, and even fewer dare to act. There's only one Snowden.

The rest of us, we vote, support civil liberties organisations, sign petitions, and the most active amongst us lobby and demonstrate.

The notion that the way to change things is by individual sacrifice, and if we don't we obviously don't care enough, is an fundamentalist libertarian fantasy.

The real world doesn't work that way. Real people don't work that way. At least 99% of us don't.

> Real people don't work that way. At least 99% of us don't.

This statement rings with me quite a bit.

I'm reminded of the day the FBI released the video and photos of the Tsarnaevs just after the Boston bombing and it was discovered that they were from Chechnya. If you visited twitter and searched for their names, you could have found a few thousand tweets asking why the Czech Republic was attacking the US. Here are thousands of Americans, typing words into a computer connected to the largest distributed information storage network ever conceived by man, and they don't bother to verify that Chechnya and the Czech Republic aren't the same place.

Most people aren't stupid, they just don't care. How many times last week did knowing the difference between Chechnya and the Czech Republic come in handy for you? Likewise, knowing that the NSA is actively slurping all your phone calls and emails, what can you do that doesn't require massive lifestyle changes?

>>The notion that the way to change things is by individual sacrifice, and if we don't we obviously don't care enough, is an fundamentalist libertarian fantasy.

Thank goodness not everyone feels the same way you do. You can't change the world if you don't at least try.

I'm glad that at least 1% does work that way. I think it's too bad there aren't more of these types of people in the world.

Whenever I read such posts (moving everything off Google/FaceBook/...), whatever the rationale, I feel like I am living in a parallel universe.

All my friends are on Facebook and as much as I dislike Facebook's piracy invasion, it's an excellent tool to keep in touch with people.

I could drop Google Talk, but as much as federation is a good thing, ironically I wouldn't have many people to talk to, since they use Google Talk/Hangouts.

Perhaps a decentralised file sharing tool is better. But everyone is using Dropbox and Bittorrent Sync will be too outworldish for colleagues/family/friends.

It's worth remembering how so many came to use these services in the first place – as a tech 'front liner' I too was once guilty of unconditionally mocking others and saying "you should be on Gmail!".

Now the tech front is reversing its position, and hopefully the rest of society will eventually follow. Unfortunately the scene isn't set just now, because there simply aren't good alternatives to Gmail – nothing free or self hosted comes remotely close to its clean UI.

When such a thing exists, selling regular users on moving away from Google will be a much easier proposition

[If you're reading this and thinking of cloning Gmail – for fuck's sake don't waste your time "innovating" on the UI and getting it horribly wrong! (This was really the biggest tragedy of the Reader transition). Do a pixel perfect conversion. Except for artwork, cloning a UI is perfectly legal as demonstrated by case law going back 20+ years in the EU and USA.]

So you didn't have friends before Facebook and Google? :) I feel that people who put so much emphasis on Facebook live in a parallel universe, too.

Let's not forget these are just tools. Most of the relationship people have on Facebook are as shallow as they get because it's easy to shoot a message on such systems. But do you really care about EVERYONE you have in your networks ? Would you really miss something crucial in your life if you didn't have it ?

Before people used to bond because they had things in common (Usenet, IRC with specific topics of interest), the "new" social networks are just about gathering numbers and bonding with people you have just met once or twice in your life and with you have little in common. At least, that's how I see most people around me using Facebook.

»Facebook and Twitter are not social networks, they are just platforms. _We_ are the social network.«

– Amr Gharbeia (https://twitter.com/gharbeia ), a few years ago at a conference, commenting on their activism in Egypt and coping with overload and unavailability of Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Also fully agree with your other points. I don’t use Facebook (Twitter though) and just email people whom I care about. Works fine, and those who really care have no problem with you not being on Facebook.

I use FB to organize stuff in my local circle of friends, I use it to keep in contact with people who I met who went back to their home country, I use it for people I meet once a year when going to a festival so we can meet up again, I use it for people I might want to contact again (ordered into acquaintances so they don't show up on my newsfeed) and I think I have 3-6 people I've never met before, those are the ones that should have pages but use accounts ;)

Doing all that w/o facebook would be a giant PITA.

I've stopped using Facebook and behold - all my best friends are still here. If a friendship can't exist without Facebook, then they probably aren't your friend at all...

It's a bit different when friends are spread out all over the globe. If I want to message someone 13 hours away it is either Facebook or email, and facebook has been replacing those short messages that email or IM used to be used for.

You can't email someone 13 hours away? [0] What difference does it make if they're spread out all over the globe or not, whether you can email or FB them?

I do get the idea, sometimes I feel a little bit excluded without an FB account, but I have never had the problem that somebody didn't have an email address. Not even kids.

People seem to make up all sorts of excuses, but in the end it always boils down to 1) suffering minor inconveniences and 2) the (often[1] irrational) fear of social exile.

As other people have pointed out, changing networks is not that hard. It's a false belief that it is. Years ago my local friends were mostly on MSN[2], East European/Middle East folks were on ICQ and Y!C, US people were using AIM. So I used Trillian and later Pidgin. What you saw was this, people are moving around all the time, and many of the persons were 2 or 3x in my contact list because they too were on multiple networks. Google chat just sort of edged itself in there as well.

Think of it like this, remember how easy it was to find all your friends on FB because of that network? And didn't the same happen with email, and with AIM/MSN/iCQ/etc? I see friends and acquaintances trickle in on G+ without any effort for that reason (except I don't want to use G+ either). Now FB pushes its "help" quite aggressively, but even without that, people connect in networks, point eachother to their friends, it's very peer-to-peer :)

[0] I mean, it happens ... http://www.ibiblio.org/harris/500milemail.html

[1] note I'm not saying "always", I can imagine certain high school scenarios where this fear might be somewhat real, although one has to wonder ...

[2] unfortunately I lost my MSN acct because the not-hotmail domain I registered it to expired a long long time ago and it stopped working--if anyone knows a solution to that I'd love to hear it because I would love to see that old contact list back :) (however I could also reg a new account and repopulate my contacts via-via just as easy)

>You can't email someone 13 hours away?

>facebook has been replacing those short messages that email or IM used to be used for.

But why? Why can't people use email anymore? This is a genuine question! I rarely feel like I would need something other than email for anything, so I don't understand how facebook replaced that?

FB gives you a great way to stay peripherally involved in people's lives. It allows you to have numerous but low-cost touch points such that when you next have a chance to properly catch-up you already know what the major events have been.

It's the complete opposite of email where I think "I'll wait until I have something proper to say" and then never send anything. On FB, it's totally normal to leave one-line comments. Having said this, I barely use FB anymore (due to privacy concerns).

Edit: I should also add that I've never used email in the social way that people seem to refer to. I really don't understand how that would be possible. FB allowed new types of social exchanges that didn't exist before (for me, at least).

I think I start to get it, thank you. So facebook basically replaces blogs/microblogging and photo sharing websites? i.e. blogs for the passive or peripheral involvement. Regarding your second point, mailing lists and group emails combined with personal emails are a good medium of social interaction IMO.

It's more like having RSS feeds in your reader for blogs that are rarely updated and you may have forgotten about (although not quite as you have to actively mark feeds as read).

An email (whether direct or via a mailing list) is an interruption (at least to me), whereas a Facebook post just drops off the bottom of the page if I ignore it.

EDIT: Sorry, that was poorly worded.

The discovery side of it is more like an RSS reader (or maybe a group email). But the key distinction (for me at least) is that I can be totally passive - I don't even need to mark things as read - or I can engage.

Moreoever, it's socially acceptable to be passive whereas ignoring an email (even a group email) is considered more like wilfully ignoring them (e.g cold-shoulder, blanking, etc)

Isn't there an old saw about every big "Web 2.0" business being something that took what people were already doing but made it "social"? So Facebook made blogging social, Twitter made texting social, etc.

10+ years ago I knew a bunch of people who had personal blogs, but of course most of them were filled with "sorry for the lack of posts recently" type posts.

I'm not on Facebook, but I understand why it's popular. The more people who might be reading, the more reason there is to post stuff. So it makes sense that everyone winds up in the same network.

For me, it's not about the direct messaging - it's the feed.

Someone on the other side of the world posts a photo of something they've been doing, I comment on it and we have a conversation.

For this to happen without the likes of Facebook, they would have to explicitly share that photo with me, something that may or may not be likely depending upon what the photo is about, what their perception of my interests are and whether they think I want to be bothered with it.

Depending on your friends, facebook offers various advantages. You can see what they've been doing", see if they are online, send a simple 'hey' that wouldn't really be written if you were to use email.

People do use email still... But pretending facebook doesn't offer any value is an exercise in reality distortion.

They can, but they do not. Why send an email to each person, when you can just post baby pictures or what you are doing to everyone on your feed? Then you don't have to worry about missing someone.

You could just as well use an address book group to send email to everyone or to a specific group. But I worry much more about spamming people with stuff they're not interested in than missing someone.

Sharing on Facebook is a passive thing. You put a picture on your profile and your friends decide if it's worth their time to look at further. You never explicitly told them to look at it, you merely gave them the opportunity. It's like hanging a picture on the wall of your home.

Email is a very explicit share. You are telling someone to look at this, because you sent it to them. This is much more personal. There's a social stigma in over-emailing, as much as there is a social stigma in not reading the emails a friend sends you. Emailing pictures is more like calling a friend. Yeah it's nice to hear their voice directly, but what if they don't want to hear what you have to say at this moment?

Email has changed. I don't reply to every link or picture people send me, nor do I expect a reply on each and every email I send.

There are certainly different social assumptions between email and Facebook, but the differences have long started to blur, depending on what context we're talking about (e.g work vs friends, etc.)

I agree with fauigerzigerk. I would say that email can, at this point, be used to "bump" stuff, to inform people, etc. without commitment or expectancy of an answer. At least, that's the way I use it.

I don't agree with this. I have had friends spread all over the globe and we still managed to have a call once a week and text regularly. Facebook does nothing to promote or enhance true friendships, it is social lip gloss at best. Yet too many people are to unfilled and shallow to truly see it.

Not really. My friends are spread out all over the globe. I do not use Facebook. I still manage to email and IM them without any headaches or complaints.

That's lucky. What IM do you use? Skype? ;)

It is not "lucky," it is a result of the fact that my friends are actually my friends. For what it's worth, I use jabber.

Here's the thing. My friends and I use Facebook to organise evenings out and other outings. We have one friend that refuses to use Facebook, so now we post an event in Facebook, and then someone has to go to the effort of keeping the outcast informed. It's actually quite a pain for your friends if you refuse to use the tool that they are using to organise themselves. It makes your friends do extra work to accomodate you...

It's you and your friends who decided to make him an outcast by forcing him to choose to stay in a particular closed site when there are so many open options to organise meet-ups, including simply firing an email with CC/BCC to all parties.

Even now there are still simpletons who don't understand the reasoning of those deciding to stay away of these sites. I'm saying just understanding it, not necessarily agreeing to it.

All my other tools don't track everything I do with them, don't sell the information to advertisers, and don't spam me with dozens of emails.

I don't get why it's necessary to justify not using such a "tool".

I know this not the crux of your post, but have you tried turning off email notifications from Facebook? I did sometime ago and I haven't gotten an email from them in years. Moving Facebook notifications out of my inbox and into a space that I had to explicitly poll went a long way towards reducing how annoying FB could be.

1) Facebook do not sell your information to advertisers. 2) The emails are pretty easy to remove - case in point, I stopped them sending me emails in 2009, and have not received one since. Linkedin on the other hand, go straight into spam because they just won't stop sending me mails...

First thing I did was disable all email notifications. Not a trivial task: I had to turn off like 30 different types of notifications one by one. However, these sly bastards just kept coming up with new notifications, that were turned on by default. So I kept getting emails from facebook, even though I thought I had disabled all of them.

That was my experience a year or two ago. At some point I deleted my facebook account, because the value I got out of it wasn't sufficient to tolerate all those annoyances: changing email notifications, constantly changing privacy settings and policies, annoying ads, annoying messages from people I barely know...

I got rid of everything a few years back. The only thing they introduced was the mentions, and i disabled that a few weeks ago (after my friends learned about it). I didn't have the same experience, to be honest. I found Linkedin much more difficult.

Mind you, the constantly shifting privacy settings are weird, its easy to be really granular (go to your Activity Log) but it is effort. You can also change privacy on a post by post basis, but its sticky, so you need to be careful. The ads never really bothered me (except for the dating ones just after i came out of a long term relationship). In fact, I never ad-blocked facebook because I could x out of ads I didn't want to see. The annoying messages from people is not really Facebook's fault, though I feel your pain....

You make it sound like this is the fault of the person who is not on Facebook, as opposed to the fault of the people who chose to use a system that has zero interoperability with other systems. From where I sit, the problem is you for choosing to use a closed system to organize social events. The problem is you for allowing Facebook to control your social life in this fashion.

Making someone into an outcast because they do not use your favorite social networking system is the problem here.

I really like email lists. Everyone has email. Most get it on their phone. I feel your pain... and this is my suggestion for a work-around.

If you were truly his friend you wouldn't be moaning about him in public...

After quitting facebook I realized that my true friends would still be my friends. Two months have passed and (in my case anyway) I feel like I am building better friendships with my friends because of using email/sms/voice calls more often instead of facebook.

>All my friends are on Facebook and as much as I dislike Facebook's piracy invasion, it's an excellent tool to keep in touch with people.

Ever tried mail and the ocassional phone call or meeting?

Do you really have to keep in touch with people seeing what they did on their vacations, bs inspirational quotes and baby photos?

>> Do you really have to keep in touch with people seeing what they did on their vacations, bs inspirational quotes and baby photos?

You may mock, but keeping involved in the minutiae of each others' lives does enable the maintenance of friendships over longer distance and time spans. Minutiae that we wouldn't necessarily make the effort to email or chat about.

As I get older my friends (and myself) have dispersed all over the globe, and even the ones not so far off have less time to give (and possibly less inclination) to spend time just hanging out.

That said, it doesn't have to be FB, or a centralised service at all.

Out of sight out of mind I guess. It doesn't really bother me that I fall out of daily touch with friends far away. A couple times a year I'll sit down and write them a letter (..email).

I am not on Facebook because I feel that they are an untrustworthy company. That said, if I felt I needed it, I would have to set up a web browser dedicated to it, or always be in Incognito mode while using it.

I agree that everyone uses Facebook, but for Google products other than search uses seems much more scattered. I personally know only techies on Google Talk/Hangouts, no "regular people", and many of those techies are thinking of moving away from it. The "regular people" I know all use Skype, with a minority using AIM for text-chat. Skype would be harder for me to drop (unfortunately, because the client is incredibly annoying), but Google Talk is easy.

mjn: That's actually suprising to me; among my friends most of the non-techi people use Google Talk (a few on AIM and Skype as well, but not many). Most of my techi friends used Google Talk as well but started moving away after federation was killed off. Now many of them use a mix of other XMPP providers (DuckDuckGo, Jabber.org both being popular) and direct messaging on IRC.

Come on now, "everyone is using" may have something to it, but its also a marketing/mind-trick of keeping people locked in to these services.

I remember in 2004, 2005 when Gmail began, why would anyone use gmail, everyone is using hotmail (shared experience). Why would anyone begin using skype, everyone is using msn? Why would anyone begin using Facebook everyone is on MySpace?

Someone has to be the first, take the step. Its us geeks that have to take the lead, do it. Just imagine if 5% of hn people would all begin using alternative software, improving it in the process. Free software at its best. Just a dream?

Time to jump of the trainwreck of these "cloudy" "services".

People could start using gmail because emails work independently from the provider. If gmail provides the nicer user experience you lose nothing from switching.

People started using Facebook because it was exclusive for a group of students. They were friends in reallife already and Facebook made it easier to coordinate.

People started using Skype because it allowed calling real phones cheaply, msn doesn't.

A large fraction of HN readers probably use Linux and free software. A fraction of them probably even improves the software they use. That doesn't mean that the average person wants to switch too.

> People started using Facebook because it was exclusive for a group of students.

Citation needed, from a different source than the FB founders.

It's a very juicy marketing lie to spread but I've seen social and IM networks of all types come and go and the only reason ever has always been "because my friends are there".

All the rest is just feature candy, stuff to attract the pioneer trend-setters. The great mass of people just herded there, couldn't care less about exclusivity or particular features (cause learning to use features is hard and exclusivity is scary), not until it was shoved in their faces.

The trend-setters don't care nearly as much about "my friends are already there", because if they did, they wouldn't be trend-setters.

So right now what I'm seeing that among those people who care about features, what is in demand but not currently available: decentralized and private (and on some level, not-Facebook, not-Google), and another important thing I keep hearing echoed but not quite emphasized are group chats (quite available already but it also seems to be a deal-breaker for new platforms if it's not there, just saying, in case anyone wants to build the next encrypted social messaging whatnot).

>People started using Facebook because it was exclusive for a group of students.

>Citation needed, from a different source than the FB founders.

Facebook was only limited to a number of higher education institutions for the first few years of its life. You needed to be a student at a college / university to get access as it wasn't open to the general public, and it took a couple years before it was widespread across all schools before going public. I was among that set of people who were able to use it.

There also dont seem to be any safe/encrypted way to have a group chat with deniability, and not even a safe way to have audio and/or video communications that dont drop or lag randomly, are slow or require a programmer to setup. (Looking at you Jitsi).

Its a big problem, to get all this right, but whoever does it is doing humanity a great one. I propose to fund it by donations, not ads or subscriptions.

I remember people started using gmail because it's the first free email that offer virtually unlimited space, so I don't have to keep deleting old emails like I did in Hotmail.

5 years from now, "People started to use seamless encryption and pseudo/anonymizing services and protocols because it was exclusive, cheap and safe."

You are right in pointing out that all the services we switched too, had some USP, I believe I2P, ownCloud, Citadel, Tor, gnunet, OTR/XMPP all have their USP too, and that is safety and freedom to express and say what ever the fuck comes to mind without self-censorship or fear for what consequences/blackmail it might have in the future.

I have a thing to not talk about the "average person" because it means too many things and more often than not is a patronizing way of saying idiots. But lets go with it this time, the average person has no incentive to use productive equipment like a PC at all and they are perfectly fine with a consume-only, digitally-rights-managed, locked-down, surveillance device. We hackers should just give up on them, let them eat cake. /rant.

gmail won because it filtered spam out and didn't show you flashy ads.

all flies eat shit, do you eat shit too?

I get the point of moving other services to places that are encrypted, private, secure, and cannot be reached by NSA, GCHQ, etc.

But... email?

It goes over the internet in plain text, has substantial meta-data, and even the contents are trivially small to store.

When people want to come off of G+, Facebook, etc... great, that makes some sense. If they want to stop using Chrome Sync, and to use Firefox, install add blockers, anti-trackers, change their hosts file, use VPNs, enable Tor, change DNS provider... great, that makes some sense.

Email makes a lot less sense though. It's effectively public and what security exists is about effective as your front door lock. It keeps out the average person that passes by and little more than that.

There is actually some argument to be had that if most of your contacts use Gmail that you should stay on Gmail as the email wouldn't route via the public internet.

I am sticking with Gmail, but am using a Google Apps for Domains account for it as that allows you to configure the domain to fully disable other Google and related services (G+, YouTube, advertising, Drive, etc). I then access Gmail via Chrome Incognito and live the rest of my internet life in Firefox.

Effectively Google for me, starts each day afresh, sand-boxed in a private browser session, and with no permission to do anything else.

The only other Google things I used they have already shuttered or have announced they're doing so. Effectively when this happens I am one of the n% who don't move to G+ and roll off of Google services.

I do wonder if we'll ever hear what % of users didn't go to Hangouts when they re-branded and closed Talk. What % of Latitude users will vanish when G+ gets whatever location sharing capability. Maybe it's negligible to Google, but it doesn't feel negligible when I speak to friends who used to use Google a lot more.

Did you read the post? He does not mention NSA or security as one of the reason to get off the Google services. Not one bit.

"The recent Google Reader shutdown and Google Hangouts disabling XMPP federation made me realize that any of my services could go at any time and I didn’t want to be so dependant on a single provider or the integrations between services."

He also said he had stopped using Google search, which is entirely inconsistent with his "could go at any time" reasoning. Clearly there must be something else that motivates his actions.

Maybe he does not like having his search results tampered with at the behest of the MPAA?

DDG uses Bing, Bing honors takedowns, ergo DDG is "tampered".

Good point, I didn't read it either ;)

> "It goes over the internet in plain text..."

Yes, but only because setting up proper encryption in email is a pain (but it isn't impossible). Email makes the most sense to move off centralised services if privacy/security of your data is one of your aims.

Edit: Though to be fair to the OP, that's not the threat model he's tackling. It's more the potential for service shutdown or lockout (which I think is low risk in the case of Gmail).

I had an idea for a small SMTP/IMAP proxy, running on your own server, that connected to your actual IMAP account and called GPG to encrypt/decrypt your mail. That way, everything would be end-to-end encrypted, if your correspondent used GPG/the proxy as well. It would even be completely transparent to you and all your devices.

He said he's keeping Gmail too.

Oh I realise, but the title suggested otherwise (and not everyone RTFA, though I did).

I was actually replying to others in this discussion who advocated "move your email too".

I originally composed the above as a reply to one of those, realised I was replying to several (4 at this point) other replies, and figured I'd make the point more generally that moving email provider achieves little.

It's much easier to scan and correlate email data on a massive scale if it is all centralized in the one place (GMail servers).

I'm not saying that is what's happening, just saying it makes it easier.

Can you not use a TLS connection?

You can use a TLS connection to the local email server. You can even enforce that a mail server you run uses TLS to the destination MX. There's no way of forcing that an email will use a secure connection for it's entire journey.

Sure there is; PGP or S/MIME. Use end to end encryption and then you won't have to worry about what happens in the middle.

Can you refuse sending email to servers not supporting TLS?

I don't know the penetration of TLS in SMTP servers, tried some google-fu but I didn't find anything interesting.

EDIT: chances are I misread your comment but still I really wonder how popular TLS is.

"When you’re paying for your social network, it makes you a customer instead of a product".

Wrong, you're still a product. The "consumer vs. product" dilemma is a false one.

I think you mean "dichotomy", not "dilemma."

He means that in the sense of the either-or fallacy[1]

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma

Please explain. Are you saying that App.net is using your data anyway to sell ads or something else?

Well, not sure what the OP is suggesting but your content is definitely a product that is attract other users to also pay.

Maybe, if he turns it in this way. I was however referring to what Apps.net says on their about page: https://app.net/about/

"We are selling our product, NOT our users.

We will never sell your personal data, content, feed, interests, clicks, or anything else to advertisers. We promise."

Yet if there was no content, there would be no product... so they are selling your content.

Which means they are just lying in their about page.

"to advertisers" are the important words to note in their claim.


Can you illustrate this in direct relation to App.net?

As already mentioned above: their are probably not selling directly your information (in the sense of these days revelations), but they are selling their product because of your content. Simple network effect: the more people there are, the more valuable their application is, the more traction it gains toward new users, the more new users there are.

Making money through you. (Like all user-generated content websites)

That parently isn't the same as selling advertisers information. Nor is it the same as tracking and selling that to advertisers. It's entirely disingenuous to suggest so.

The maxim is 'if you're not the customer, you're the product' not 'If you're not the customer, you're the product we sell to advertisers.'

It's a pithy quote and nothing more, one I can disprove handily by pointing at any number of completely free, donation based services online.

You are not being "sold". That entire line of thinking is intellectually lazy and meant to provoke an emotional response. I wish people would stop it.

Absolutely agree, it's a terrible phrase.

No, it's disingenuous to suggest YOUR content is unrelated to the value of THEIR product.

A reasonable analogy would be conferences, are you paying for the venue, or the access to other people/speakers? does that mean the people/speakers are the product?

My contribution being of value to the site is one thing. Tracking that contribution and using it to target advertising is a completely different thing. Suggesting otherwise, as you and others appear to be doing, is deliberately disingenuous.

If there is an transaction between the user and the company, i.e. data in exchange for service, I do find it a bit strange that the tax office has not started to extract sales tax on it.

Might be a bit evil/selfish, but I somewhat hope that services that user need to pay for with personal data gets taxed, just so that truly "free" services can get an competitive edge on the market.

Eventually (e.g. via targeted advertising) they convert that data to cash. If they weren't going to make cash from it, they would not be collecting it in the first place. And when they do convert it to cash, that cash will be taxed.

Well, when you pay with money, the government takes a percentage of that money. And when you pay with data, the government takes a percentage of that.

If you're paying for it, then there is an incentive for the company to give you the service other than profiteering on your data.

Obviously it's still not a guarantee.

Where should this incentive come from?

There are lots of companies that simply sell you the serive and at the same time profiteering on your data.

Unless, of course, privacy is part of that service, but even then the company isn't trustworth unless it actively encourages use of end-to-end encryption wherever feasible.

I think you missed the part where I said that it's not a guarantee.

Obviously, it's not a guarantee. They can still profit both ways. But if they have another means of profit, then there is the possibility that they're not dead set on profiteering on your data.

This is still not good enough for me though. Self-hosted or nothing as far as I'm concerned (Social Networks).

muyuu: Absolutely right (although, depending on the social network and how federation is handled they could possibly sell your data even if it's self hosted). If you know of any other good self-hosted social networks I'd love to hear about them. Feel free to email me; I may or may not see it in the deluge of comments here (see the about page on my blog).

Case in point: duckduckgo

The site uses Google hosted jQuery. Guess being tracked by Google is not an issue for them. ;)

if Google was nice and concerned with people's privacy they would not log anything on those hosted files but a simple integer hit counter.

Am I the only one who want the opposite? I love having everything seamlessly tied to one ecosystem. The synergy effects are worth it and I can't see a better company than Google to handle it.

> Am I the only one who want the opposite?

No, you're clearly in the majority of people who value their own convenience highly. I unfortunately have to include myself in that majority too, although less enthusiastically than you.

> The synergy effects are worth it

To you as an individual maybe. Overall the prospect of a populace whose information and activities are all stored and logged by a small number of entities is a pretty big "it", and I don't think the (admittedly great) personal convenience is worth it.

Edit: It occurs to me that your use of the word "ecosystem" is a bit weird. Really, what you're saying is akin to saying you like the advantages of a monoculture.

>and I can't see a better company than Google to handle it.

Google hasn't exactly been a good company recently, at the very least the whole reader issue has caused a lot of worry.

Not to forget the alleged heavy involvement in PRISM.

Everything being seamless is great for usability. But they also place you at great risk. For example if Google disable your account you lose all access. Similarly you are at their mercy for what happens in the future (eg cancelling services, requiring you to use others in certain ways, platform support). It also means that you aren't using best of breed for various parts of the solution. For some it may not matter (maybe you don't care about photos, or files, or calendars, or address books or mobile apps or group chat).

As an end user it is in your best long term interests to have open solutions. That means protocols with multiple implementations of the client and server ends. It means identity, authorization and exposure under your control. And it also means freedom for others to write new clients and servers.

> It also means that you aren't using best of breed for various parts of the solution.

This author admits Chrome is better. Google cannot disable his access to Chrome. If it's cancelled, then IT IS open source, and someone can run with it and make a new project (much like Cyanogen). If in the future it requires you to use other products in certain ways, then it IS open source.

There is literally no reason to not use Chrome, other than spite.

If someone else prefers another browser, that's fine. But none of the stated rationale explain why the author abandoned it.

"in the interest of free as in freedom software". Can you make any sense of that?

> Google cannot disable his access to Chrome

They can disable access to some of the functionality - for example bookmarks, password sync, what tabs you had open etc. Suddenly having a "naked" browser without any of that could be disconcerting and problematic.

My bigger point was that if you use Google (or anyone else) for 15 different things then all 15 won't be best of breed. (Obviously some could be.) Putting all your eggs in one basket means getting less than the best for some of those 15, likely the majority.

Using open solutions means you can use the best for you.

> ... free as in freedom ...

It was as a contrast to "open". For example it is possible to have open protocols, but implementing them requires licensing fees, or dealing with patents, or paying for certification. See http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html and apply it to software running on either end of open protocols.

It seems like the majority wants that, and that's very understandable. But it's very very hard to know what "it" actually is, especially when you try to account for the future. So, I don't think most people have the smallest clue if this is a good trade-off or not. Time will tell I guess..

Another point that actually bothers me more is how inflexible this is. You can't mix & match the best services when sticking to one ecosystem. And you cant take part of new development happening elsewhere. So you're actually missing out on all the cool stuff happening elsewhere, and the longer you use these services the harder it is to switch to something else.

I liked to have one ecosystem as well, but not anymore - it's too risky, because then one company has too much of your data, and there are too many various possibilities how the data can be leaked.

I now use the opposite strategy, having several various providers, preferably not free, while one company provides only one service, i.e. one for bookmarks, another one for email, etc. I found that I don't miss the synergy effect as much as I thought.

They're a huge multi-national corporation. It's unlikely they have your long term interests, goals, safety, personal satisfaction in mind. But yes, it's convenient and a lot of people agree with you at the moment.

My guess is more will come out, and people will see that trusting private corporations with private data isn't a great idea.

The "ecosystem" is shutting down one service after another.

Why Google? Genuine question.

What has a better ecosystem?

That's not what the grandparent was suggesting from what I understood.

Any web service could "go at any time", in fact, the smaller players are more likely to fold up shop, not give advanced warning, and not offer something like Google Takeout. It's happened before. Some smaller players in the past didn't even have good backups, and simply lost user data. You could self-host, but again, unless you want to put a lot of labor and money into reliability and security, you can also lose.

I'd call the reasoning used in this article "Reader Derangement Syndrome".

I'd certainly trust Google to shut down a product more gracefully than a startup.

I seriously don't understand the logic behind this whole article. Is he really afraid of the google play store disappearing? Is he aware that you can install an apk from anywhere after changing one setting? Virtually everything that's been shut down by Google has had a graceful shutdown where you could export your data in a calm manner.

It sounds like he's more concerned about the NSA stuff than having services shut down but never really says that. It's just a weird rant as far as I can tell.

You can't call it "everything" if you keep Gmail.

Personal email would be the most important service to get under your own control, and it's the hardest of all problems to solve.

ZoHo Mail isn't bad, I've been using that instead of Google Apps at the moment. Ideally I want to switch to my own server but I never relish the thought of setting one up.

I recently switched from my own server to Zoho.

I use Hushmail and I like it. I have also had good experiences with Fastmail.

lavabit + GPG

any of my services could go at any time [, like] Google Reader

... a lead time of months, with daily notifications in the final month? But he's willing to go with other cloud services?

As for the total abandoment of google products, it seems petulant. 'I won't do Android, I'll do Cyanogen instead!'?

Is there anything to this post but petulance?

http://dbpmail.net/essays/2013-06-29-hackers-replacement-for... is a good tutorial on replacing GMail.

GMail is excellent at search and spam filtering, everything else is just a standard e-mail service. The tutorial points out how you can at least try and match the level of spam filtering with the community based Pyzor.

Don't underestimate search though. Being able to quickly find information (content, contacts, etc.) from years of unstructured eMail communication with a simple search box is very powerful. At work I have to use Lotus Notes and Outlook and compared to Gmail they really seem stone age when it comes to find information in the archive.

Very true. Gmail does that very well, but that's not something you cannot solve if you are very disciplined on how you use, store and archive emails. Gmail makes it frictionless, and that's probably one of its biggest assets, but in some workplaces, as you mentioned, people are forced to use Notes or Outlook and you learn to live with it. It's not always as frustrating as you might think. For example, I am certainly much more "messy" in the way i use email with Gmail since I know I can find things easily, but that may be a disservice to act this way in the end. You form bad habits.

I may be an outlier, but I like GMail first and foremost for its interface. Ever since I started using conversation view, it's just seemed like the obvious way to show e-mail. Nothing else really matches it, although Geary is trying now.

I've found Fastmail to be really good (although I haven't been able to figure out some of the anti-spam stuff so far).

Fastmail is nice. I'd love to host my email on my home server, but from what I can tell, to send SMTP I either need to get a static IP (costly / impossible) or use some smpt routing service, in which case not that much is gained from self-hosting.

I wrote about how I use Google-alternatives here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5718126 An addendum to that, since the article mentioned Music and OwnCloud: I use Subsonic to stream my music collection, the Android app is very nice in how it caches so I always feel like I have full access to my complete collection without getting huge mobile data bills; I don't think OwnCloud's music app can match Subsonic quite yet.

Thanks from FastMail for the kind words too :) Quite agree about keeping outbound SMTP working. We spend quite a lot of time and effort in both keeping our outbound email relatively clean to stay off blocking lists, and making sure we support all the latest signing, DNS magic, whatever antispam tricks are in existence to improve the reputation of our IPs.

ownCloud designer here, thank you for the kind words! Two things you might like:

* We’re reworking the Music app this summer, see http://kabum.github.io/2013/06/20/GSoC-First-report/

* There is a stable News app to read RSS feeds: http://algorithmsforthekitchen.com/blog/?p=580


Use Autistici/Inventati: http://www.autistici.org

>>why do I want my calendar to be online anyways

Wow, my Gmail calendar is the one thing I can't see doing without. View from anywhere, seeing my team members schedule, adding invites to each other's calendars. It's pretty much my task (or reminder) list as well.

Thanks for the Photographer.io mention! I was about to deploy Dutch and Polish language support when I noticed the traffic rolling in, so I'll be leaving that for a few hours now in case I break it.

If anyone has any questions about privacy on Photographer.io or any other general questions then I'd be happy to answer. You can also email them over to support@photographer.io if you prefer.

I'm going to give it a try. I tried 500px but something about it seemed off. I use instagram and just started with flickr. I have an old site that turned folders of photos into table based galleries which I coded up last century....

Great site! Switching over from 500px.com

Glad you like it! Make sure to let me know of any problems you find or ideas you have; I love getting feedback on it :)

Maybe if he was using Google to host his site, it would still be up.

(Yes, I'm being glib, but with a point - there are real downsides to moving away from services like Google that have industrial-strength cloud services behind them. Just because you can move to other things or self-host to improve privacy doesn't mean there aren't major tradeoffs.)

As for music I think that for Linux (I guess you probably use Linux since Windows is just as evil as Chrome or Facebook) XMMS is still the best player. I use it for years now and I never had problems with it. It also comes with a Winamp-like interface and functionality.

I've been using 'cmus' recently, which is pretty decent. Far less issues with pulseaudio than with a lot of the other players.

A fellow cmus user here, I can only second the awesomeness of it and encougrage everyone interested in client-side music playback to try it out.

As we know all services are vulnerable at any time to disappearing. Startups failing, large companies sunsetting. It then appears the question becomes "What is the cost to me of this service going away?" where cost can be how long it would take to move to a comparable offering at that time. Then you way that up against "How much am I giving up each day/week/month if I use a service I want less but am doing so due to my fear of being "all in" and at the mercy of Google's whims?" So when I see an article like this (which I enjoyed) I tend to think the above is simply out of whack with a "I'm getting off every service"

I think it's a time of opportunity now. Someone could become the provider of private internet experience to uproot Google, Apple, MS and the rest.

We need a single, all in one solution for all the basic things: email, search, video, photos, social networking, calendar, sync and maps. Have I forgotten anything? Another essential app is a Tor-like browser with strong privacy support.

All of this needs to be bundled in a private cloud app capable of handling from one person to a group with thousands of people, like, for example, a university.

We need to be able to own our own data, to have access to our logs and to be the only party who has access to our logs. This whole thing needs to be open source and thoroughly tested.

Paper calendar suggestion seems kind of defeatist. I just switched to http://radicale.org/ (from my old nokia phone calendar, not from google) and it seems fine so far.

I spent several years using outlook, apple ical and windows live calendar. I then ended up having to write a backend for icalendar protocol and saw what a shit crock everything is. It's a miracle any of it works.

Last year I moved back to a paper diary and a mechanical pencil. It is considerably more flexible, readable and editable. I hit several brick walls with computer based calendars particularly with having to add complex events like "every third Friday but not the 25th because I'm on holiday then".

Free form is sometimes better than structure.

Its like going from a relational database to a document store.

If you want a flexible calendar application that can handle rules like that, you need Remind[1].

For example, if you want to be reminded every third Friday of the month, except on 19th of July because you're on holiday, you can write:

  OMIT 19 July MSG Holiday
  REM Fri 15 SKIP MSG My Event
Now you ask it to print the events for the next six months:

  $ remind -s6 test.rem
  2013/07/19 * * * * Holiday
  2013/08/16 * * * * My Event
  2013/09/20 * * * * My Event
  2013/10/18 * * * * My Event
  2013/11/15 * * * * My Event
  2013/12/20 * * * * My Event
As you see, it skipped "My Event" on the July 19th, because it was an Holiday.

[1]: http://www.roaringpenguin.com/products/remind

I can't really be bothered with all that after basically writing that entire solution for a private company. Another metalanguage to learn...

Plus I have to have a network connection and log into a UNIX box for it which I can't do whilst I'm on the phone as it's stuck to my head at the time.

Not really defeatist, but impractical. There are functions like reminders and invitations you just can't get with paper calendars easily.

You don't always hear reminders and invitations don't always work properly.

I'd rather have neither than any that aren't trustworthy.

Nothing always works properly ("Perfect is the enemy of good").

A paper calendar and pencil simply doesn't scale if you need to share & sync calendar events with a team or group of people. Or simply want to keep your phone's datebook in sync with the one in your email client, etc.

Yes but some things rarely work perfectly.

It scales fine. In fact it scaled for hundreds of years before electronic calendars appeared. They mobilized two world wars with pens, paper and typewriters.

Synchronisation is not an issue if you have one single source of truth.

I get that you don't need a digital calendar. I've really not ever had that many issues syncing our team's calendars between mobile & desktop clients. Perhaps I've had good luck.

It seems your argument against a digital calendar holds for all the things you're seeking a non-Google replacement for. In light of that, do we really need email or blogs, or federated IM, for that matter? Write a letter instead.

Indeed. Paper calendars might have worked for WWI and WWII, but that took a lot of effort and was not instantaneous. I would also like to get up in the morning and not have to actively check the calendar to see what are my daily tasks -- rather, I would passively glance at my phone (or computer) and have it tell me what are my daily tasks. It's just less overhead to worry about, and freeing some brain cycles for whatever tasks you may have ahead. It's either lazy or efficient, whatever you prefer :)

All good suggestions, but heavily focused on non-collaborative solutions. For example a paper calendar is no good if you regularly use your colleagues calendars to schedule events and know what is going on.

Well, people have been living with paper calendars for dozens of years and were still able to launch rockets and stuff. I think we overestimate the usefulness of some digital tools. Making it easy to schedule meetings often results in tons of unnecessary meetings - it's better to have some friction there. But I guess it really depends what you do - there are certain use cases for digital calendars, but in my experience the way they are used is unproductive.

I hate working with people who send me a note after they've already sent me a meeting request, telling me that they saw an opening on my calendar and have set up an hour-long meeting with no agenda.

It's a weird combination of laziness and an unwillingness to use other tools (email, issue tracking, typing). If they just typed up an agenda (heck, Confluence has a template ready) we could probably wrap up the whole thing while I'm goofing around on HN.

Having to go through an EA/PA to schedule meetings is one of the best ways of exchanging money for time, plus you end up having one person who never makes you cringe, unless you start worrying that they're giving notice because they're starting their own company or moving across the country.

Another cloud file storage service worth checking out is Jottacloud (http://www.jottacloud.com). It has similar features to Google Drive and Dropbox but being based in Norway, it complies with stricter laws on privacy and data ownership. See for example the question "What does it mean for me that my files are stored in Norway?" in their FAQ (http://www.jottacloud.com/faq/).

A similar service is Wuala (https://www.wuala.com/), which is owned by the French company LaCie. They say your files are encrypted using AES-256 before they leave your system and the key stays with you. Apparently the only thing their employees see is the number of your files and their size. Their servers are in Switzerland, France and Germany.

It seems like a good option. Relatively cheap as well. But are they encrypting my files? On the FAQ page they say that during uploading the data transfer is encrypted, but they don't mention if my files stay encrypted on their server.

There's something sketchy about Jottacloud. I don't trust it. I installed the client a few weeks ago and it wouldn't upload my files. The program just froze. When I tried to uninstall the software it hung again (I had to manually delete it).

It's still in my start menu somehow, although I disabled it. And this is happening to a guy who religiously scans and cleans his Windows partition.

I recommend everyone stay away.

Most people are ignoring the biggest problem that Google is causing. Gmail's virtual dominance in email field is going to be extremely hurtful for the rest of the hacker and startup community.

At the end of the email marketing remains the numero uno method of user acquisition and retention. With the new features such as priority inbox and automated classification of personal emails/promotion emails it is going to make it impossible for new consumer web startups to succeed.

If GMail kills email marketing, I will walk all the way around the world to Palo Alto and personally shake Larry & Sergey by the hand. Nobody likes email marketing, not even the people building their livelihoods on top of it.

If Google managed to snuff out such a widely reviled marketing channel, it would be an enormously disruptive force in the tech industry. And disruptive forces aren't hurtful for the startup community at all. Disruption makes room for innovation.

Sure, it'd be bad news for SendGrid, but it'd be awesome news for some lucky group of people in the 2015 YC batch.

Absolutely. As users we would all love if we get "no promotional" emails in our inbox. But this is going to give power to Google to decide which email get delivered and which does not giving an bias towards which company makes more money than others. Which is not good.

I would rather see a more distributed and open system that helps people get rid of the promotional emails or not.

sorry, no, i would be thrilled to have promotional email automatically separated from my personal email. it may make your job of user acquisition (isn't "user acquisition by email marketing" just a euphemism for spam?) and retention harder, but this is my inbox, not an extension of your ad campaign.

True. But the idea is that "you" should decide that and not google. For example google might chose to block 99% of the marketing emails which might make you happy but at the same time Google will decide which 1% of them will succeed.

This is where Microsoft was 6 years ago. Before that, IBM/Lotus.

Times will change again.

Email marketing... you mean spam?

There are many people who actually read the emails they receive from companies, even promotional emails. The fact is that not all email marketing is spam.

Some people like being informed about the products/services they use - in this case, the email marketing they opt into is a periodic newsletter of sorts. When a new feature or improvement is released, some people like receiving an email notifying them of the release. Again, such an email is marketing. For larger companies, there's a marketing team who designed the email and wrote the copy for it.

Don't confuse email marketing with spam. Some marketing is spam, much of it is not.

It's just semi-legitimate spam really. It's OK if you follow these rules:-

> Unsub is stupidly easy to find and use. No, I don't need to fill out your survey or login and use textboxes to complete. > I signed up for it. The default on the signup page was no. There was clear seperation between boxes that had to be ticked and ones that didn't.

If you don't you lose the semi-legitimate and you're getting marked as spam.

After working for many years in email marketing let me tell you what I have learned. Giving a clear cut and well accessible working unsub link is the best way to ensure deliveribility.

The recent Google Reader shutdown and Google Hangouts disabling XMPP federation made me realize that any of my services could go at any time and I didn’t want to be so dependant on a single provider or the integrations between services.

It's interesting how the recent NSA revelations didn't play a role in this decision. Providing NSA access to user data - Fine, whatever. Shutting down a service - How dare you! Evil company! Consumerism trumps the civil rights.

Thanks for the comments and suggestions all; I've updated the post with some of the suggestions people have emailed to me (diff: https://github.com/SamWhited/blog.samwhited.com/commit/62f00...).

ownCloud designer here, thank you for all the shout outs!

There’s also a great RSS feed reader for ownCloud since some time: http://algorithmsforthekitchen.com/blog/?p=580 – installable from the App settings, would be cool if you can add that.

Where is he hosting this stuff? What makes you think Linode/DigitalOcean et al would violate US law to protect a customer?

Such action is extremely impotent if you still keep Gmail. Aside from chat, email is the most private service on the list and failing to give up on that exemplifies how people value convenience over privacy. This type of "activism" is almost negative if you're fighting for better privacy.

I've done the same, but switched to: * Autistici/Inventati (http://www.autistici.org) for email and jabber * owncloud for files, calendar, news, contacts * cyanogenmod and f-droid instead of vanilla android and google play

Lots of cheap web hosting providers offer webmail for one's own domain. Having never used Gmail I can't compare the interface, but I find it friendly enough and have no difficulty syncing the web view and Thunderbird (debranded as Icedove) at home. Even semi-technical people can do this with a little effort.

I do use the Google search sometimes, and sites that retrieve from GoogleAPIs, but frequently dumping all cookies, cache and such and changing browser details will keep you off the radar if you wish.

People speak as if it's a big hassle to avoid depending on big companies - or to avoid the tracking and wiretapping - and but it's really just a question of the relative values one attches to privacy and convenience.

FWIW, I use Linux and am fairly happy with Amazon Cloud Player.

The lack of Linux support for their downloader is annoying, but I don't feel the need to download entire albums particularly frequently. When I do, spinning up a Windows VM is the work of but a moment (I haven't tried running the downloader under wine, but it probably works well).

I don't mean to excuse Amazon for their Windows-only mindset or suggest that lack of Linux support won't be a big deal for you, but don't let this post discourage you from trying it in case you're a Linux user who wants to give it a shot.

Keeping GMail invalidates almost all the other efforts. That is the frist element of Google addiction that needs to go away. GMail is tying you down to Google and is unfortunately hardest to break free from. My choice (at least for now) is Fastmail.

Disclaimer: I feel strongly about this topic [1] and think that most of HNers should too.

[1]: http://www.ikusalic.com/blog/2013/06/04/case-against-google/

OK, IMHO if you keep gmail, you have not left google. Having one service with them and having multiple services with them are essentially the same.

I am trying to do the same thing. Problem is, I used my gmail address everywhere already. My contacts know me by my gmail address. Dropbox identifies me by my gmail address .. you know what I mean.

I moved my custom domain emails to fastmail. But my @gmail account can't be moved. I really don't know what to do with it. I am stuck.

Give yourself 1 year to migrate off. Tell everyone, services, etc. at the 6 month mark, put that in your sig. at the 9 month mark make an autoresponder. at 12 month, close the account.

Actually, don't close the account. Just let it lie dormant.

Autoforward everything you get to it to one of your custom domain emails, and set up an autoresponder that says you're no longer using GMail, points to your new email, and tells the sender you'll stop checking GMail soon?

After about a year or so of that (plus having the presence of mind to update your email address whenever you use a service), you should be able to delete your account without too much inconvenience. Yes, it's a pain, but that's how lock-in works.

   I had a bit of trouble adapting to the kinds of results I 
   was getting and what sort of language I used when 
   searching (I didn’t realize how tuned-in to Google’s 
   search algorithms my subconscious had become), but after 
   using it for a while I began to love it.
I'd love to read a tutorial about how to adjust search queries to suit DDG. Maybe this is why I find it to be such a pain, and always switch back.

Interesting, I have been in this line of thinking. Google has been as cavalier about user data as the rest except that it has the holier-than-thou attitude.

Made the painful move back to firefox on all my computer after being used to Chrome. I have started using DDG in desktops but still depend on google on my mobile devices. Email, I am still stuck with gmail as the primary mail box (Which I am actively working on to move out to paid account).

In what way has Google been "cavalier" about user data?

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