Over the last few years, there has been a fair amount of backlash against Google for a variety of things, most notably its use of personal data with advertising. A lot of people say they want to stop using Google's services, but they don't think they really can. Google is, after all, quite pervasive and makes itself easy to count on. Here are 10 Google services you can leave -- some with more effort than others -- and three you may not be able to abandon even if you want to.
1: Google Search
At this stage in the search game, Google's lead in results quality has largely evaporated. Independent tests show that Google's search quality is not significantly better than its competitors. Google Search's position as the big favorite has also made it a favorite target for the scammers and spammers looking to peddle their adult entertainment and malware. You can easily switch to any of Google's competitors without sacrificing quality, losing Google's behavior tracking along the way.
Plenty of other free email systems are out there. Is Gmail good? Some folks seem to like it, and it is well integrated into various phones. But Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail are viable alternatives, and you can get an equally good link to a phone with any ISP's IMAP or Exchange mail service. Gmail's big advantage (lots of free storage space) was matched by competitors a long time ago, too.
Picasa was bought a while back by Google, when stand-alone photo sharing sites like Flickr and Photobucket were also growing big. While Picasa does have some useful tools, other services can do the same work. If you are trying to go without Google, moving off Picasa is possible, though it may take you some time to move the data.
There are three perfectly good alternatives to the Android operating system on the market: iOS, Windows Phone 7, and BlackBerry. Windows Phone 7 may not be very established, and BlackBerry appears to be on the decline, but it is hard to argue that iOS is a "niche vendor" in the mobile market. Unless you have a deep commitment to the Android ecosystem or have a requirement to use it, it is pretty painless to switch to one of the alternatives and not have to worry about just how much of your personal phone data Google may start feeding its advertising beast.
5: Google Talk
Google Talk has never been a major player in the IM or VoIP space. Your best bet is to use Skype, which has more or less become the de facto winner in this market.
6: Google Docs
Google Docs is a decent tool, but that does not mean you are married to it forever. Google Docs already enables you to get the documents out, so it is not too hard to download your work and either move it to a Google Docs competitor (like Microsoft Office Online) or use locally installed applications instead. Even if you do not want to or can't spring for the full price of Microsoft Office, lots of free and open source suites -- like AbiWord and LibreOffice -- can fill this functional role,
7: Google Maps
A lot of other mapping services are available to replace Google Maps, and many do not come with the privacy concerns Google Maps does.
There are quite a few equally good blogging systems out there. Some are free, some are paid, and others offer a freemium model, where a membership fee will get you additional features. The big player is, of course, WordPress. It has the added advantage of being an application you can install on your own server if and when you want to have total control over your data.
9: Google Reader
Google Reader is a simple blog feed aggregator, and there are lots of other services out there that do the same thing. Because your subscriptions can be exported in the standard OPML format, it is trivial to pack up your bags and move to another online or locally installed news reader.
10: Google Checkout
Google Checkout is a great example of a space Google tried to break into without much success. PayPal is still the go-to vendor for these services, with Amazon Payments being a viable alternative with more market penetration (who doesn't have an Amazon account?) than Google Checkout.
Three Google services that are hard to live without
Unless you are willing to forego the overwhelming majority of online videos, you won't be able to get away from YouTube. Everyone seems to use it for everything when it comes to "free content," with the exception of TV shows on Hulu. Even product tutorials and instructions are hosted on YouTube now. Good luck trying to permanently block it from your life.
2: Google+ (maybe)
If you are a content producer, Google's recent changes to push items that are linked to on Google+ to prominent positioning has meant that like it or not, you need to cross-post content to Google+. This is the kind of move that makes folks resent Google, but there is not much you can do to fight back.
3: AdWords (maybe)
AdWords is another "must-use" Google service for companies. If you have a Web site you need searchers to find, AdWords is your best bet to getting there. No one likes having to pay for AdWords, but Google's dominant position in search means you have few options.
Are you trying to disentangle yourself from some Google services? Which ones do you think you can ditch (and which ones are you sticking with)?
Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.