I’ve always been one to laugh off the hysterical claims that Google is “evil”, something which began about 10 years ago when Gmail popped onto the scene. People still make this claim, but it wasn’t until the last couple of years that I began to think that maybe they really have become one of those companies that I want less and less to do with. But still, I’ve continued to use their software every day because most of it is well-made and works just how I like it, and now I’m using Android which entrenches me deeper into the Google ecosystem.
Then I saw this story:
Google, the tech giant supposedly guided by its “don’t be evil” motto, has been funding a growing list of groups advancing the agenda of the Koch brothers.
Organizations that received “substantial” funding from Google for the first time over the past year include Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, the Federalist Society, the American Conservative Union (best known for its CPAC conference) and the political arm of the Heritage Foundation that led the charge to shut down the government over the Affordable Care Act: Heritage Action.
…Heritage Action, the tea-party styled political advocacy arm of the Heritage Foundation, is perhaps the most surprising recipient of Google’s largesse.
More than any other group working to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Heritage Action pushed for a sustained government shutdown in the fall of 2013, taking the country to the brink of a potentially catastrophic debt default.
What. The. Hell. Google is giving money to these batshit-crazy right wing groups? Even evil incarnate types like the Koch brothers? Oh this is bad, really bad. People like to say companies are “evil” when they don’t actually have an evil agenda — their business practices may have a negative impact in certain ways, but that doesn’t mean the company itself makes evil its top priority. But for me, this kind of political activity goes beyond just “Google protecting their business interests.” This kind of thing almost feels like an indirect personal attack, because these conservative troglodytes are doing everything in their power to halt the progress of our society and legislate against specific groups of people: gays, non-whites, the poor, you name it. I consider these people to be the evil ones, and anyone that helps their cause carries an evil association in my book.
It’s made me look at how many Google services I use (a lot!) and evaluate which of them are likely making money for them through the selling of users’ private information. I’ve been thinking about which alternatives would be worth using instead. It’s a bit too little too late, of course, since I’ve been using their stuff for years and they likely have a shitload of my data already, but in some small way it makes me feel better to somewhat disentangle myself from a company I’ve suddenly lost a lot of respect for.
Oddly enough, after doing a lot of reading about alternatives to Google services, it’s turning out that the ones I’ve been choosing are mostly provided by none other than that other “evil” company: Microsoft. But wait, aren’t they just as evil as Google?? Well, there will always be people arguing about that. At this moment, I’m so pissed at Google for donating to Tea Party asshats that I want to run right to their direct competitor. However, I’m willing to judge MS on their donations as well, and it turns out they donate to Democrats far more than Republicans…so if they make advertising money from my use of their products, I think I can live with that. Of course I don’t pretend that the Democrats are impervious to corruption and being bought by lobbyists, but I agree with the Progressive philosophy and that’ll have to do. I also don’t think MS is 100% innocent of buying special treatment, such as their massive tax dodge in Nevada and Washington state. I just think that right now they are the “lesser evil.”
Politics aside, I’ve found that the services Microsoft offers for online email, calendar, and document editing (three of the biggest Google services I use) are well-made and easy to use. Outlook.com has a clean and slick interface, and it doesn’t sniff your emails to serve up related ads. You’ll see an occasional ad for a MS product, but that’s it. They also make it absurdly easy to import your entire Gmail account over to it. So I imported 10 years’ worth of emails (16,000+) from my Gmail account into Outlook.com, and I honestly think I might be able to completely switch.
Calendar is right there too — I was able to “subscribe” to my Google calendar in Outlook.com so I can now see it on there. I will likely still use Google Calendar for creating new entries since it’s so closely integrated with my Android phone, but I’ll have to experiment with the Outlook calendar and see how it goes. The MS Office web apps are also far better than Google’s offering on gDrive, especially if you’re already used to using Office on a PC.
Google search has been ditched as well, and I switched all search engines on my PC, phone, and tablets over to Bing. I’m sure Microsoft tracks my searches for advertising purposes just like Google, but if I wanted truly private searches I could just use DuckDuckGo or something like that. Besides, Bing simply looks nicer and the results are just as good for me. They also have a rewards program to keep you searching with them, it’s a bit gimmicky but it sort of “gamifies” your searches which is kinda fun.
Google+ is another thing I’ve put on the chopping block. I’ve deleted all Picasa web albums and all the personal info I’m able to delete from Google+. I gave up on G+ a long time ago, though I really gave it a good try. I’d still like to keep it active because it does have some great content, but I won’t be posting anything new…and I might even delete whatever posts I do have. There certainly weren’t many.
So what Google products am I not letting go of? Well, I’m still using their Chrome browser because it works so well and I think it’s the best there is. I briefly tried using Chromium, the open-source browser that Chrome is based on, but it’s a little wonky and doesn’t have the same polish as Google’s offering. Opera is still light and fast, though, so maybe I should give it another chance. Google Play Music is another one I really can’t stop using. It’s a terrific streaming music service, and the $8/month all-you-can eat subscription is simply too good to pass up.
Anyway, there are a lot of non-Microsoft alternatives to Google services out there, such as ZoHo which has free office and email services. You can