So, I’m still bothered by the Google thing. I’m bothered by how reliant I am on Google’s products the same way I was bothered by how reliant I was on Microsoft’s products. It happened so subtly that there was never a conscious decision to use Google products and services exclusively. It wasn’t something where there was a “well, I can’t get this anywhere else” conversation or a “well it works better with this or that feature” conversation with myself. Google just quietly (or not-so-quietly) put out their products, and we downloaded them and incorporated them into our lives.
The sheer amount of data that Google has of ours is staggering. And that’s just the data we know about. Seeing as how they “accidentally” picked up some private data from wifi networks on their Maps expeditions, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they’ve got more on us than we know about. And then there’s the stuff they have that we do know about, but don’t think about. In The Big Switch, Nicholas Carr points out just how easy it is to identify people — and glean information about them that they would otherwise keep private — just from the types of searches we do, the city we live in, and our date of birth. Besides being able to positively identify anyone with that information, think for a second about how much information a stranger would have about you if they knew every search query you ever typed into Google, whether it was for personal, academic, or business reasons.
So I’m going Google-less for a week, starting next Monday. I want to see how easy or hard it is to weed Google out of my life as much as possible. We got pissed off when Facebook started passing around our personal information but Google has now threatened to take on the FCC, a government agency, telling them “you have no jurisdiction over how we do things here” at the cost of small businesses and individuals worldwide.
Now, some things will be more difficult than others, for example, we use Google Checkout in our business (which came from boycotting PayPal), so there’s that. And internally, we use the Google Talk protocol to send messages across the room (although I don’t actually use the client because I use Digsby, and other than that it’s just another Jabber server). YouTube is so ubiquitous it would be somewhat difficult to avoid it entirely (though I’ll try) and this blog uses FeedBurner to handle the RSS feeds. But in every other way I can think of I will try to avoid using Google at all costs and we’ll see where it takes me in a week.
I encourage anyone who reads this blog to do the same and to pass this message on. It’s good to put things into perspective once in a while and find out just how dependent you are on certain services. If Google went bankrupt tomorrow, what would you do? And, possibly more importantly, what would happen with all your data? What would happen if you went Google-less for a week?
It's possible to do it. I'm sure of it, but only for those that haven't incorporated Google into their business model. Google simply works for business.
But for personal and social use, there are other ways. Bing works just as good as Google, and there are other RSS options, etc. I think if there were standardization across platforms there'd be more companies joining Google among the ranks of the important, thereby spreading our personal information around companies. But sadly capitalism breeds rivalry and no two companies are going to work together under those conditions. Google will always rise to the top because why would anyone chose to use something other than what works, unless they have some great moral reason to do so? Why try to fix something that ain't broke? Wow, have I drunk the cool-aid or what?
Best of luck! Can't wait to hear how it works out!
My recent post Rock Circle- the Beach
This is an interesting idea. Interesting because where did it come from? Ten years ago, you could have said "Microsoft simply works for business," and yet now companies are trying to find alternatives to expensive software suites like those that Microsoft builds. Certainly Google has moved to the forefront of search, and online advertising as a result, but increasingly they aren't the only kid on the block and studies have shown that we're not looking at (or at least clicking on) ads nearly as much as we used to. Clickthrough rates are falling.
My concern is less about capitalism — although, even there, Google is trying to cut corners; set the stage so that they will have no rivals by establishing a tiered system in which traffic prioritization forces small content providers to pay higher rates to be able to truly compete with the big boys, thereby forcing some would-be dotcom-ers out before they start — and more about the monopoly. But the monopoly Google has isn't over any one product or service — you can't slap an antitrust case on them (although, there already was one over Google Books and I've hears rumors of others impending) because they aren't monopolizing any one product the way Microsoft gave themselves an undue advantage in the browser wars by bundling their browser with the operating system. Rather, Google is monopolizing the internet itself, trying to weave their way into everything we do online, while they've simultaneously grown so large and influential as an organization that the idea of telling the FCC what they can do doesn't get them laughed right out the door. The fact that Google and Verizon have been secretly holding their own meetings while both of them, along with many other major players, have been meeting with the FCC to establish net neutrality regulations and they specifically go back on their stated position on, and definition of net neutrality (i.e. particularly on the topic of traffic prioritization), which could undermine any authority over broadband access the FCC may have, is practically a coup. And we've all let it happen simply because they have superior — or at least superior in some cases and free (which makes them superior in enough ways by default) in others — products. When did we let corporations tell the government what we can do with free technology?
My recent post Google America