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Good Bye Google

I'm planning on writing a series of posts tagged with "Good bye Google" that will cover my progress over the last few year in leaving the Google eco-system and moving to open source self hosted alternatives.

I wanted to start with this post first though to explain my rational behind the decision. I think the first thing I should cover is why you should not migrate away from Google services. There are many good reasons to use Google's infrastructure;

  • Google is significantly cheaper than running your own kit, even if you host everything on a single cheap VPS or hosted on your home ADSL connection it's still going to cost you.
  • Google is more reliable, there is just no way you can get the kind of uptime that Google has if your hosting stuff on a home ADSL connection or with a single VPS provider.
  • Google is more secure, you might be pretty good at locking your server down, and your going to be a much smaller target which is good, but Google has teams of Experts working on this.
  • Google is lot less work, hosting your own servers is not just a weekend setting them up then forget about it, at the very least you need to keep applying security patches and usually you will need to upgrade when new major versions of software come out and troubleshooting when things break. If you self host everything expect to spend a minimum of an hour or two every month on maintenance.
  • Google will fight government demands for your email in court and has teams of lawyers that you simply couldn't afford.
  • Lastly I think it's a better user experience, this one could be debated until the cows come home because it's so subjective but I think Google do a pretty good job of UI design and integration between different Google services.

I don't think Google is evil or unethical in some way. While I don't agree with every decision they make, on the whole I think they are mostly a pretty good company. So you might be wondering with all these downsides why would you go to self hosted? Well it's not for the faint hearted. For me it's mostly a mix of being a bit of a tinkerer by nature, I like to build things for the sheer joy of seeing how they work. Also I care about sovereignty of data more than I care about the other factors like user experience.

I think that Bruce Schneier has a great metaphor where he likens tech companies to feudal lords. It's a great analogy and if you haven't seen it before I recommend reading it.

I will be updating this post with links to the relevant posts which will cover each one in more details but the services I had with Google were:

  • Analytics - I've moved to Piwik. Related post.
  • Android - I'm still using Android but I'm using CynaogenMod which has a lot of the Google services removed. Related post
  • Calendar - I'm using OwnCloud with DAVdroid to sync.
  • Chrome Browser - This wasn't a big change because I always preferred FireFox as my main browser. There were some developer features that chrome had and FireFox didn't for awhile, so sometimes I'd switch to Chrome but now I feel FireFox is ahead in terms of developer features.
  • Contacts - I'm using OwnCloud with DAVdroid to sync.
  • Docs - I did look at Feng Office and ran it for a while, I've played with Etherpad and a few others too. They were all ok but generally I just use LibreOffice and work offline.
  • Drive - Using OwnCloud.
  • Fonts - Depending on the license for the font, you can usually download it and host it yourself. EDIT 2016-06-23: I have downloaded the fonts used by this blog as they are "released with a libre license and can be freely redistributed". I am hosting the fonts for this site myself. So no connections are made to Google when loading this site. (Original text was "Although the theme for this blog uses Google fonts and I haven't moved yet.")
  • Hangouts - I rarely used hangouts, maybe two or three times a year. But I use Mumble and xmpp a bit. EDIT to add: I started using Riot to chat and make video calls with my fiancĂ© while she was in Vietnam for 3 months. It's works really well and I love it, related post.
  • Mail - This is the big one, I have not migrated yet. I've played with Postfix, EXIM, Dovecot, spamassassin, rainloop, tutanota and a few other bits and pieces. I've got it setup and self hosted for a few of my less critical domains and it's working pretty well, but I haven't made the plunge yet for my main email.
  • Maps - Open Street Maps from the browser and OsmAnd on the phone. Related post
  • Play Store - F-Droid
  • Reader - When Google Reader got end of lifed I'd been thinking about moving for a while and in a way it kicked off this whole migration. I moved to NewsBlur, it's open source and can be self hosted but I've gone with the paid hosting version for now.
  • Search - Duck Duck Go in my experience the results are not quite as good as Google but they are not too bad. I like the bang searching
  • YouTube - Have not migrated yet, I only use YouTube to watch videos I've never posted anything. But my mate from work has been using Media Goblin and his Media Goblin site looks pretty good.

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