8 Alternatives To Google Services

If you've ever thought about jumping off the Google mothership, then this guide will help you crawl out from under the shadow of the big G, step by step.

The decision to close your Google account has to be carefully considered — after all, this is the place that stores your email, your documents, your contacts, your photos, your news and even your health records. But this level of investment to one service is as good a reason to leave as it is to stay: If looking at your Google Dashboard, which lists all the services you use, and the amount and type of information you store on them, doesn't make you feel a little uneasy, then hell, what would?

Anyway, we're not here to make the case for you to drop Google altogether — it's not something I'm prepared to do, for a start — I'm just here to tell you how to do it. Here's everything you need to know about life after Google.

Search

It's easy to forget that there are other search engines in the world, because Google has been so plainly dominant over the last few years. But they're there, and they're actually pretty good.

The best alternative to Google, by a long shot, is Microsoft's Bing. It's an evolution of the Live search engine, and it offers a distinctly different experience than Google: it's far from minimalist, with a colourful interface, content-tailored results pages and and emphasis on reducing clicks, rather than reducing clutter. Coming from Google it can be visually jarring, and the fact that the results for common searches are different — if not better or worse — means that at first, you'll get the feeling that it isn't working right.

Give it some time and some patience, and you'll realise that it's pretty damn good. Some bits are actually better, like image search. And even if search isn't perceived as the biggest threat to your privacy, it's important to make the switch anyway — after all, it was Google search that was the gateway to all the other Google services, which you're now trying untangle yourself from.

Honourable Mentions:YahooWolfram AlphaCollectaMahalo

Email

Back when it launched in 2005, Gmail lured users with insane amounts of free storage space: 1GB. Impossible. This caught the dominant services of the day completely off guard and made their free webmail seem utterly ancient.

Today, that 1GB has grown to nearly seven, and on the surface not much has changed about ol' Gmail. Meanwhile, the companies that were blindsided back in 2005 have had plenty of time to catch up to and in some cases exceed Google's offering. Here's how to make the full switch:

Backing up your Gmail: There are a number of ways to do this, but one stands out as the easiest: The email client method.

1.) Download Thunderbird, a free email client from the same people who make Firefox (Download for Windows, OS X).

2.) Enable IMAP access on your Gmail account, by clicking the Setting link in the top right of your inbox, navigating to the Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab, and selecting the "Enable IMAP" radio button.

3.) File > New Mail Account

4.) Enter your name and Gmail address, after which Thunderbird should find your mail settings automatically, and set itself up as an IMAP client:

(If this doesn't happen, consult Google's guide for a manual setup.

5.) Once the account is set up, open Thunderbird's Account Settings panel, and navigate to the synchronisation and Storage tab. Make sure "Keep messages for this account on this computer" and "Synchronize all messages regardless of age" are both selected.

6.) Wait for your messages to sync to your computer — this could take hours, especially if you're near your Gmail storage limit.

What you've done here is imported all of your Gmail messages into a local client — Thunderbird — which lets you browse them, search them, or back them up to an external hard drive for posterity. And if you switch to another IMAP-based service, you can import these old messages into your new account simply by dragging them from your Gmail inbox folder in Thunderbird to your new account's inbox folder.

Contacts are a trickier question, but at the very least you can use Gmail's contact exporting tool (under your Gmail inbox folder list) to create a CSV file or or VCard, for importing into a client like Thunderbird.

The best alternative service: As long as it's been since Gmail showed up on the scene, the webmail scene hasn't seen many exciting new players — Google has a knack of preempting new competition when it moves into a product category. So, for the best remaining alternative is a veritable oldie: Yahoo mail. Consider the facts:

• It's still free. • It offers unlimited storage. • POP access is available in the free version, and with a little fiddling, so is IMAP access. • Free text messages in certain countries. • The interface doesn't look like it was designed in 1999, like certain other webmail clients.

Calendar

Exporting your Google calendars: This one's easy.

1.) Navigate to your GCal settings page, and click on the Calendars tag. 2.) Export calendars to an ICS file, like so:

3.) That's it!

The best alternative: Yahoo calendar is fine, but in the spirit of spreading your vital info around, let's go with Windows Live Calendar. One you've created a Live ID — you pretty much need one of these nowadays — you're automatically given a Live Calendar account. To import your Google Calendars, just do the following:

1.) Open Live Calendar 2.) Click "Subscribe" 3.) Import the ICS file you exported from Gmail, like this:

Photos

Not that many people use Picasa, so this one should be easy. Plus, there are some obviously superior alternatives.

Flickr doesn't stop at being a great photo-sharing site, it's also an amazing resource for photographers, both expert and amateur. Storage is limited with a monthly upload cap. • Photobucket is a simple gallery service, with an emphasis on sharing over archiving. Storage is limited to 1GB. • Shutterfly is another super-simple service, with unlimited storage (Google doesn't even offer that for free) • Facebook shouldn't be counted out — its photo compression may be aggressive, but it does allow you to upload and tag a virtually unlimited number of photos.

Documents

A lot of people find themselves using Google Docs because it's just so damn convenient — you receive a document in your Gmail account, and suddenly, hey, it's in the Google Docs service! That's how they get you. And interestingly enough, despite Google's acquisition of Writely and subsequent improvements on in the Docs service, there's still an objectively superior online document editing service out there.

ZoHo Docs is a full online office suit (among other things) which does virtually everything Google Docs can do, and often more. It offers deep document editing, offline editing (!), and collaborative editing. Document compatibility on ZoHo is absolutely tops, and the formatting and editing options far exceed Google Docs. There's a text editor, a spreadsheet editor and a presentation editor, to name a few.

Social Network

Google+ was patient zero in Google's mad information grab, and while it might not have gotten the foothold Google hoped for, a decent chunk of folks have ditched Facebook because of its shoddy track record of privacy foibles. That game looks a lot different now, especially since Facebook made a deal with the FTC in November that forces it to obtain consent before sharing your information or changing your privacy settings. And hey, we actually really love Timeline.

Combined with Twitter's popularity and more focused networks like Foursquare, abandoning Google's ghost ship shouldn't mess you over too badly.

Web Video

There won't be any getting around YouTube and its stranglehold on web video, but that's not a problem. You can view almost all of the content on YouTube without signing into a Google account. The issue is with storage, and YouTube is the biggest user-generated video host on the planet — and free.

Vimeo is probably next in line as far as having a place in the internet's consciousness, and it's a totally worthy alternative. For one, it's where most of the serious video projects will be posted primarily. So if you're uploading as a professional, you're probably using Vimeo already. Then consider that the comments are mainly positive, and not the horrible cesspool that YouTube's are. Tech-wise, Vimeo's just fine, too: It's got a fully embeddable HTML5 player that's viewable on pretty much all mobile devices.

Phones

It's tough to get out of your contract if you're locked in on an Android phone. But if you're up for an upgrade sometime soon, and you want to sidestep Google's info-grab, you should take a long hard look at Windows Phone. Yes, there's the iPhone. That's really great. But Windows Phone is a totally fresh take on phones, and if you're going to be an Android expat, you should take a dip in the totally-new-and-different pool before trudging back to familiar waters like iOS.

Pulling the Plug

So, you've migrated what you can, and settled into you new services nicely. Now, it's time to close your Google account out, once and for all? Are you ready? Are you sure? Ok.

For any grievances you may have about Google's privacy practices, you have to give them credit for making the process stupidly easy.

1.) From any Google page, click the Settings link in the top right, then Account Settings from the submenu. 2.) Next to "My Products", click the "Edit" link 3.) From here, choose to delete individual services, or close your Google Account altogether.

4.) Confirm that you want all of your data deleted.

5.) DO IT.

Feels strange, doesn't it? For anyone with enough spite and motivation to follow this guide, though, I suspect "strange" could be replaced with any number of more gracious adjectives. So, ex-Googlers: Do you feel better now?

We couldn't cover every last Google service and piece of software, so if you have more tips and alternatives to share, please drop some links in the comments.


Comments

    Why would you be so anti-Google?? So many free services, only a noob would delete all relations with Google. Even an iSheep still has gmail accounts and uses Google Search.

      Not necessarily. I've never bothered with anything from Google because everything they've offered that I might be interested in is stuff I already have well and truly covered. e.g. I had a Hotmail account before Google even existed.

        haha Hotmail FTW! Still, many Google services are still at or near the best in their field (IMHO) such as YouTube, Google Reader and Search.

        Never really cared for Gmail or Google Docs. Hotmail, Live Calendar and Office Live are superior in almost every way.

      2 reasons.
      1. Google announces new privacy changes 1-25-12 (see Washington Post)
      2. http://biggovernment.com/capitolconfidential/2011/05/04/google-and-government-a-threat-to-your-privacy/

      Google don't offer any free services. You pay with your personal data, which they use to push adverts at you, and probably in other ways too.

      So many free services; such a bad and un-user friendly customer service. Sry mate, even I who was one of the most Google advocate can trust such a faceless company anymore than just that, free services.

      - Who needs to put all the eggs in one basket?

      because they sell your information and search info to insurance companies.

    WOW! you guys are really out to get google these days aren't you?

    This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

    All of these are better than Google:

    http://quintura.com/
    http://duckduckgo.com/
    http://www.wolframalpha.com/
    http://www.dogpile.com/
    http://yippy.com/

    And to answer KzD (a.k.a android troll) the reason people are dumping Google is because they are quickly becoming the anti-web.

    Don't want to believe: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8ofWFx525s

      excellent link, thanks for sharing.

    Any replacements for google apps out there? i use it for my websites email and calendars etc. Not set on moving away. just looking at alternatives if i need to :P

    This article does nothing to address the privacy policy's of the suggested alternatives.

    What's the point in jumping ship if you're jumping to something worse that what you're leaving? Yahoo! and Microsoft have had some horrible policies in the past, are they all of a sudden better than Google's new policies?

    but the whole reason I love Google is because everything is right there in pne place. I open google.com.au and I can get to all my stuff, except photos which I have a Flickr paid account for.

    Microsoft Office 365 is a way better alternative to Google Docs. It doesn't corrupt the look of Word documents or Excel.

    I migrated all my Google Apps stuff to Microsoft using their free Syncdocs tool, and haven't looked back.

    Email: Looks like it's time to set up my own domain and server. Not for everyone but why not.

    Search: Duckduckgo

    Phones: Custom android ROM

    The rest I don't use.

    I've actually tried to use Thunderbird on Giz's recommendation a couple of time over the last couple of years, and both times I had to ditch it because it just added another link to navigate and thus slowed the whole process down. Plus if you do a reinstall of your OS you have to then back up Thunderbird and then reinstate it! Just not worth the hassle. I am considering slowly switching over to Yahoo though!

    Am I the only person who thinks '...in the spirit of spreading your vital info around...' is kind of a bad thing, and suggesting Facebook as an option for photo storage is a disgustingly hypocritical (from facebook licence) 'you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any (IP) content that you post on or in connection with Facebook'.

    Wouldn't a single page 'which lists all the services you use, and the amount and type of information you store on them' be a good thing, it's a feature I doubt any of these alternatives will give you (btw thanks for pointing this (Google Dashboard) out, its another excellent Google service that I shall start using).

    The mentioned 'zohodocs' can often do more? you mean some times it can and sometimes it can't? sounds lame

    ok now how done now how do i ditch face book? and what about the right o be forgotten laws? are there any in Australia?

    This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

    oh yes... i should def jump ship from Google, and right into the assortment of Microsoft products youve listed...

    "le sigh"

    Google hasnt wronged me yet, so i see no reason why i should bail... so they are changing their search somewhat, who cares? Its good they are changing, and experimenting, hopefully it gets even better with time.

    Giz needs to quit its Google Bashing.

    There isn't any alternative to Google. Internet is like our world and Google being its God.

    Nice that Google at least make all your data easy to export. Be sure not to jump somewhere that doesn't!

    replace gmail with thunderbird?
    swapping from google services from all these individual services are going to be a headache. with google everything is integrated, gmail has calendars, you can save attachments from gmail directly to Docs. and most importantly i dont have to sign into 10 different accounts.
    and security, with 2 step signing its very hard to access your details even if they have your username/password

      They weren't suggesting you replace GMail with Thunderbird but rather you use it as a tool to export mail from one service to another.

    You forgot the instructions for constructing a protective cap from aluminium foil to stop them recording your thoughts.
    Also; moving to a log cabin in the US Appalachian mountains, wearing plaid flannel clothing, a trucker cap, toting a double barrel shotgun and sprouting an epic beard.

    Moar people need to spend two days with a WP7 handset. The interface is confusing at first but it only takes an hour or so to get used to it. Android does have its appeal - I sometimes wish I could have sweet widgets like on my sister's SGS2. But the elegance with which WP7 integrates functions, and apps themselves, into the OS and Hubs more than makes up for that.

      I love WP7, but maybe more Aussies would play with it if the telco's would offer some high end handsets instead of token offerings your mum or sister might buy.

    Yahoo mail? Really? It's a PITA to set up IMAP with it and they don't offer exchange? Plus if you're going to recommend Live calander I'd personally go with the same calander as my email provider for ease of use on a smartphone.

    Live mail also allow you to use them as email for your domain for free with 500 email addresses standard. This can be upgraded to more for free if needed.

    About the only things I don't like about live mail right now is the lack of a quick click to reply box like gmail, and the tiny tiny send button, but ctrl R and ctrl enter keyboard shortcuts make this bearable.

    I've also found Bing gives me better search results in the last year.

    Mat Honan needs to lay off the google hate.

    Google forever.

    What about when something goes wrong? How many of those alternatives would have sufficient backups to restore lost email when a disk cluster failed? That showed Google's true colours for me, where they have everybody protected, even the free accounts.

    So as for 'download all of your mail from the access-anywhere internet to a $70 hard disk in your computer' being a good idea ..... really?

    This article really does come across as Google bashing for the sake of it, not for any real informative purpose. How about reviewing those alternatives and rating services against each other, instead of just 'ditch Google because I say so'.

    Crap journalism.

    what an utterly ridiculous list of alternatives... I'm shocked you didn't mention AOL... shame shame shame

    Nice write up. Alternative to most of the google services seem good, but for google docs another online sharing tool would definitely be CollateBox- http://www.collatebox.com/ Very keen on observing this product's progress in the near future.

    Love my Windows Phone!!

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