A more diverse set of online tools

· 3 min read

Recently, with all the scandals around Facebook’s huge data leaks, companies that gather a lot of data from their users have been under intense scrutiny.

One of these companies is Google, which, according to this graph by Statista, has over 80% search marketshare in the US:

Graph showing Google's search marketshare by country

That’s not Google’s only strength though. It also has large market shares in media content with YouTube, smartphone usage with Android, email communication with Gmail and mapping with Maps.

These last few years, I’ve used all of these products. I think I may actually have used Google a bit too much. Google knew a lot more about me than I would have wanted anyone else to know about me.

The problem was not about Google making top-notch products. The problem was that I used a lot of these products and that I trusted Google with a lot of my personal information.

So, recently, I’ve started to diversify my set of online tools and win back a bit of my online privacy. Let’s take a look at some of these tools.

I now use DuckDuckGo for most online searches. It’s mostly like Google, only it doesn’t track you. Here’s Duck Duck Go’s privacy policy:

Our privacy policy is simple: we don’t collect or share any of your personal information.

Not only do they not track you, but they are actually really good at search. And when they aren’t, they allow you to easily search on Google by typing !g your search instead of just your search. So you get the best of both worlds.

And same as Google, Duck Duck Go strives to give you quick access to the information you’re looking for. For instance, if you type weather in Paris, here’s what you’ll get:

Duck Duck Go shows you weather information immediately

I encourage you to add DuckDuckGo to your web browser for a week and see for yourself.

Address book, calendar and email

Over the last few years, and especially since the Snowden revelations, alternatives to Google Contacts and Gmail have become more popular.

I am a big advocator for Fastmail, which provides an online calendar, an address book and an email account. Here’s a glimpse at the Fastmail interface:

Fastmail's user interface

Some things I like about Fastmail are that it supports custom domain names, it sponsors open source work too, it plays nice with others by allowing you to import Google calendars and it caters to power users’ needs with keyboard shortcuts for common operations such as moving files to specific folders.

Maps

For a few weeks, I’ve been using Here maps. The user experience is solid and the mobile app has an offline mode, which I like, not only because it reduces tracking but because it works when my 4g connection doesn’t.

I’ve also asked Google not to record my location history. Google actually has taken the time to build the tools that make that easy, the Activity Controls:

Google Maps history switch

YouTube, Android and other things

I gladly keep using YouTube and Android for now. But I am looking into some potentially viable alternatives, most notably PeerTube and Lineage OS.

Maybe I’ll get to that at some point.

For now, having my searches, my address book and my communications in another basket is good enough.