Facebook and Google are indispensable to most people. You scroll mindlessly every day for information and entertainment on Facebook and Instagram. Tools like Google search, Gmail, Google maps, Google Drive and YouTube are convenient and, more importantly, free. In recent years, however, people start to realize that free is actually expensive in the sense that you instead pay by your data, privacy and attention. That’s why Facebook and Google become technology behemoths as the business of selling your so-called free data, privacy and attention as ads proved to be extremely lucrative.
A few years back I already realized the evil of such business model and started to move away from Facebook and Google. For those of you who are also convinced this is the right move but don’t know how to start, the following list of Facebook and Google alternatives will be a good starting point.
My long term goal is to ditch big tech altogether, but the Facebook and Google evil twins are the first ones I want to get rid of. The whole deleting Facebook and Google movement is still ongoing. Don’t expect you can quit all of their services overnight. I still use a few up till now and that’s totally fine.
In practice, it’s more easily to escape from Facebook than Google. After all, Facebook is only a social media website which can be treated as news while Google provides a plethora of free tools. But there are actually abundant Google alternatives out there.
# Facebook alternatives
Facebook: I have deleted my Facebook account. I used to have some friends on Facebook which is the only reason I may want to keep Facebook though fewer and fewer friends post their updates after Facebook pivoted to the news business model. Deleting my social media account actually isn’t that scary. Just move all the contacts and social activities to private messenger apps and that’ll be fine.
Instagram: I have deleted my Instagram account. Same as Facebook.
WhatsApp: That’s a bit tricky. I still have a WhatsApp account. WhatsApp actually replace the original social network function of Facebook and friends are connected within WhatsApp groups. It’s difficult to move away when your friends are all on WhatsApp because of so-called network effect. There has been a mass exodus from WhatsApp to more secured Signal and Telegram when Facebook announced that the data of WhatsApp users will be shared to Facebook and there will be no opt-out. Many of my contacts and groups have been moved from WhatsApp to Signal, but still the migration is not 100% and I’m forced to keep my WhatsApps. Anyway, as I don’t have a Facebook account, my sharable data is kept minimal.
Facebook login: I don’t have a Facebook account so I don’t link any other accounts to Facebook. It is unnecessary to use Facebook login (or Google login) for the sake of convenience. You can always use your email and password which are stored in a password manager.
# Google alternatives
Google search: I haven’t used Google for a long time. I currently use DuckDuckGo as my search engine. I also set DuckDuckGo as the default search engine of the browser. Some Hong Kongers say that DuckDuckGo does not perform well in local search as most of the time it will return results from Taiwan instead. But this is not a concern for me because I mainly search in English. DuckDuckGo also seems not to perform web scraping as aggressively as Google, so the search results may not as updated as Google. If you want to grab a particular piece of news or information, just go to the your favorite news website directly. For instance, I will go to StackOverflow directly for finding coding related information.
Gmail: I’m using Hey email which is a paid service that respects my privacy. Paying for an email service may sound crazy, but if you really care about privacy, it’s worth paying. There are also other privacy first alternatives such as FastMail and ProtonMail.
Google Drive+Google Docs: I have completely migrated all my files from Google Drive to Dropbox. I subscribed to Dropbox Plus. Besides email, storage service is another service worth paying. I really don’t want Google to data mine all my photos, files and emails. Dropbox paper is a plus where I can take notes. Dropbox also support editing Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint directly on dropbox.com. I also sync all my photos to Dropbox.
Google calendar: I’m using Airhq which is developed by myself. I organize all my tasks and events in Airhq.
Google map: Google map is one of the service I’m still using. I’ve tried to use OpenStreetMap and Apple map and they work fine in normal circumstances, but Google map contains much more details such as information of public transportation. I’m currently using Google map without logging in.
YouTube: That’s another Google service I’m still using. I enjoy watching videos and search for information on YouTube. As long as content creators still create videos on YouTube, there are no alternatives. I mainly watch YouTube videos without ads using Brave browser and without logging in. The only time I fallback to YouTube mobile app is when I need to watch time-shifted live stream which I don’t not why this feature is not supported on mobile browser.
Android: I use iPhone.
Google contacts: I’m using Microsoft contacts. I’m still finding alternatives because I want to ditch big tech altogether.
Google translate: I use Cambridge dictionary or search in DuckDuckGo directly if I come across some words I don’t understand.
Google login: I don’t use Google login. I use email and password to create accounts. Always use password manager.