For some time, I have been concerned about the amount of data I store on Google. This post aims to show alternatives to the service.
This is primarily for two reasons. The first is simple. I would like to avoid a single point of failure, and the risk that I could be suspended for a number of months with no recourse.
The second if more political. I’m worried about the way that certain governments can subpoena information which they may not be able to collect directly. Now, don’t get me wrong. Google is good at transparency. They also provide a very useful service that works incredibly well. In fact, the quality of the integration and services provided is the primary reason I have not changed previously.
Calendaring is something that I naturally feel shouldn’t be hard, but somehow is. Google Calendaring service is rather good, and far outstrips anything open source I’ve found so far. However, I’ve managed to migrate to Zoho which offers a very similar level of functionality. It’s also very easy to extract your entire calendar from Google, which makes the transition easier.
Reader is a service provided to subscribe and read RSS feeds. In the past, I’ve used Gregarius as a self hosted solution, but this seems to have disappeared recently. I briefly flirted with NetVibes, which works well once you turn off the frustrating ‘widget’ mode, but has completely failed to address the need to have native tablet apps. In the end, I settled for NewsBlur which also has the clever use of hotkeys for navigation which I found essential in Google’s products.
Picasa has stood me well for hosting photos for some time. And photo hosting is something I have quite a large amount of professional experience with :) Despite having previously been in competition with them, I can heartily recommend Flickr, even with it’s dogmatic reliance to creating a Yahoo! email address for each account.
Search still has some way to go to find a viable replacement. I’ve tried DuckDuckGo, but found it lacking. Much like the mistake that Apple seem to have made with the launch of Apple Maps, there seems to be a misunderstanding that search is actually HARD.
There are two camps when it comes to searching. You can be dumb, or you can be smart. By being dumb, the user can provide enough information to help narrow the results down to a single (or at least manageable) result set. This works fine, and is a traditional model. The opposite is to be smart. Simply get the results right, using a variety of metrics to work out what the user wanted in the first place. This is obviously more difficult, but infinitely more valuable, and is something that Google excels at. The problem lies when you fall in between these stalls. Unfortunately, it seems that there is no viable alternative to the big G at the moment.