Google can feel pretty pervasive and, if you’re concerned about your privacy, that might worry you. So, if you want to get rid of all your Google services, here’s how you can do it and what you’ll be losing.
Editor’s Note: It’s worth pointing out before we begin that we’re not advocating getting rid of Google—we generally prefer their services over the competition. We’re simply trying to give you all the facts should you try to go that route.
Google Is Everywhere, And You’ll Be Giving Up A Lot
Before we begin, it’s worth considering how realistic the aim of removing Google from your life is, as well as pointing out some of the downsides.
Google is everywhere, and it’s everywhere in ways you won’t always see. The ads on this site? They’re Google Ads. The analytics software we use to analyze our traffic? Google Analytics. The font we’re using? That’s pulled from Google. Even if you don’t use any Google service yourself, just by visiting this site you’re being exposed to three of them.
And it’s the same with other things. If your mother uses Gmail, even if you don’t, Google is still going to have your email address and—unless they’re encrypted—the emails you sent her. It’s certainly possible to minimize your exposure to Google, but it’s very hard to eliminate it completely unless you lock yourself in a internet-free cabin in the middle of nowhere.
The other issue is that Google’s services are popular because they’re good; like, really good. If Google wasn’t offering incredible services, we’d never have the privacy nightmare we know and tolerate today. Unless you have very niche needs, Google Search is the best search engine and Gmail is the best free email client. Most of the alternatives that are on offer just aren’t as good as the Google service they replace.
Also, if you’re replacing a Google service with another free one, you’re just getting into bed with a different company with the same problems. While there are some exceptions, nearly every company that offers a free service is collecting data on you and using it to serve ads (or sell to other companies that then use it to serve ads). It’s a trite cliché at this point, but that doesn’t make it less true: if you’re not the customer, you’re the product. If you really want your privacy to be protected, you almost always need to pay for services. Otherwise, without ads, the companies just can’t stay in business.
One other thing to bear in mind is that Google services work together. Files you store in Google Drive can be edited in Google Docs and quickly attached to an email in Gmail. If you’re replacing each of these services with a different one, you are unlikely to have the same seamless integration as if you just stick with Google.
How to Replace Google Search
Google Search is by far Google’s most visible product. It’s the foundation on which their entire empire is built. Fortunately, there are still some other search engines out there.
While Bing and Yahoo are still available, using one of them is really just replacing Google with Microsoft or Verizon (yep, that’s who owns Yahoo now). And neither of those companies has ever really been heralded as a champion of consumer privacy.
If you want to replace Google with a privacy focussed search engine, we’d recommend DuckDuckGo. DuckDuckGo basically bills itself as the anti-Google. Its whole thing is, that while it serves ads related to what you’re searching for, advertisers are never allowed to track you, and your search history is kept completely private.
It’s easy to add DuckDuckGo as the default search engine on whatever devices you use. Here’s how to do it on:
It’s kind of hard to objectively rate search engines: if you find what you’re looking for, it did good; if you don’t find what you’re looking for, it’s failed. Most search engines are very good at finding what you’re looking for (or at least something very close to it) most of the time. In my own experience, DuckDuckGo has been as good as Google for general stuff.
How to Replace Google Chrome
Replacing Google Chrome is probably the easiest thing to do on this list. At How-To Geek, we use a lot of different browsers. Justin Pot and I are big fans of Safari, while Chris Hoffman is pretty keen on Firefox Quantum. Even Edge is a decent browser these days.
Personally, if you’re on a Mac, I’d really just recommend sticking with Safari. If you’re trying to dodge Google, there’s almost no reason to use something else. If you’re using anything else, you really can’t go wrong with Firefox.
The downside to ditching Chrome is mostly if you’re still invested in using other Google services. The integration is pretty tight, there.
How to Replace Gmail
Email is one of those sad facts of life—like telemarketers, taxes, and The Kardashians—that are just impossible to avoid. I’d love to recommend just ditching email, but that’s not realistic. Instead, there are two alternatives to Gmail that we like here at How-To Geek.
First, if you want a properly free service, are really only avoiding Google having your data, and don’t mind only using the official apps, check out Mail.com. To use POP3 or IMAP email clients or skip the ads, it will, however, cost you $20 a year.
If, on the other hand, you want a privacy-focused service, have a look at ProtonMail. Based in Switzerland and with all your data is entirely encrypted by the email client, it really is truly dedicated to user privacy. There’s actually a free tier, but with only 500MB of storage, it’s essentially a free trial. Instead, you’ll need to pony up at least $6 (€5) per month for a properly usable account.
Unfortunately, Gmail is a really good email service. Google’s spam filters are the best around, and are honestly the thing people miss most when moving away from Gmail. You’ll likely notice an increase in spam email getting through with Mail.com or ProtonMail that you wouldn’t have gotten with Gmail. You’re also having to pay to get the same level of service you get for free from Google which, for a lot of people, is a major downside.
How to Replace Google Maps
For Apple users, replacing Google Maps is pretty easy: just use Apple Maps. Despite a rocky start, Apple Maps is really good now. It’s the only app I use for navigation.
If you’re not a fan of Apple Maps, however, things get a bit trickier. Waze is often trumpeted as a great alternative, but it’s actually owned by Google now, which kind of defeats the whole purpose. OpenStreetMap is free and pretty good for directions, but doesn’t do traffic. Bing Maps is a thing and has traffic, but it means just giving your data to Microsoft instead.
Depending on how you use Maps, you could consider just ponying up for an actual navigation system for your car. Having a dedicated device is actually convenient, and they tend to have very good route finding. Depending on the model, there’s also a good chance it will do traffic updates, either by connecting over radio or piggy backing on your smartphone’s cell connection.
How to Replace Google Calendar
Since a good calendar requires such a simple feature set, you don’t miss out on much by going with something other than Google Calendar.
If you work in a company of any size, you’re probably already familiar with the calendar built into Microsoft Outlook. They also offer a free version to anyone with a Microsoft account. Apple also offers iCloud Calendars to anyone with an iCloud account. Personally, since I’m up to my neck in Apple’s ecosystem, I use iCloud Calendars for everything. Outside of these options, you can consider local calendars on each of your devices, but they won’t sync events. That, plus integration with things like Gmail or Outlook is the main reason people go with Google, Apple, or Microsoft.
How to Replace YouTube
Yeah, you can’t.
No, seriously, there’s not really a good alternative to YouTube for viewing videos online. Vimeo is great for hosting your own stuff, but the content on the site is more geared towards filmmakers and videographers than vloggers. You’ll find some great documentaries there to watch, but not quite as many funny cat videos. Similarly, Twitch is good if you like to watch gamers live streaming, but that’s pretty niche. It’s also owned by Amazon, so you’re once again dealing with a big company that cares little for your privacy.
How to Replace Google Docs
Google Docs was the first big online collaborative document suite, but it’s no longer the only one. Microsoft and Apple both have free online versions of Office and iWork respectively; you just need the relevant account to sign in and get started.
While there are other alternatives out there, if you’re looking to collaborate with people I can’t really recommend them. You’re just not going to convince a team of five people all to sign up for a service they’ve never heard of.
How to Replace Google Drive
Cloud storage is one area where Google definitely doesn’t have anything approaching a monopoly. There are lots of cloud storage services out there offering various free tiers.
Personally, I’m a big fan of Dropbox and pay $10 a month for more storage. Their free tier (2GB plus bonus space for referrals) just isn’t a very good deal, though. If you only need a bit more storage, I’d go with Box.com and their 10GB free plan.
How to Replace Android
Okay, this one is a bit of a gimme, but if you’re trying to avoid Google and you’re using an Android phone, you’re doing a pretty bad job of it. There are only two real alternatives to Android: iOS and whatever OS dumbphones use these days. Apple has consistently demonstrated their willingness to protect customer privacy, so iOS is definitely the better option.
It might feel like Google has a finger in every pie, but it really has never been easier to find alternative services to use. With a bit of thought, you can minimize your interactions with Google, and how much data they can have on you. Unfortunately, there are some pretty big trade offs. Google’s domination isn’t some Machiavellian plot, it’s just a result of them making really good products that tie together well.